UC Health Campuses Meet to Review Progress of Biomedical Research Collaboration

By Steve Tokar

UC Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration, and Development (UC BRAID) program leaders, left to right: Gary S. Firestein, MD (UC San Diego); Dan M. Cooper, MD (UC Irvine); Lars Berglund, MD, PhD (UC Davis); Clay Johnston, MD, PhD (UCSF); and Steven M. Dubinett, MD (UCLA)

With a focus on improving biomedical research collaboration within the University of California system, representatives from five UC campuses and the UC Office of the President (UCOP) met recently for an annual retreat in Oakland to review the progress of the University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration, and Development (UC BRAID) program.

Since 2010, the UC BRAID consortium has been working to bring together UC’s five health campuses — Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco — with the goal of reducing barriers to biomedical research by pooling data, resources and expertise.

“After only two years, we are seeing real success,” said UC BRAID chair Clay Johnston, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor of research at UCSF and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). “Thanks in large part to support from the UC Office of the President (UCOP), which provides critical funding and in-kind support, this group has become a center of coordination and cross-campus synergy that is having a demonstrably positive effect on research at UC.” 

Participants at the Sept. 14 event, including UCOP’s Steven Beckwith, PhD, vice-president for research and graduate studies, and John Stobo, MD, senior vice president for health sciences and services, discussed how UC BRAID has created a uniquely powerful virtual biomedical research institution.

Among UC BRAID’s early successes is the creation of the UC Research Exchange (UC ReX), an unprecedented cross-campus searchable database of patient-level study data from all UC medical centers. UC ReX enables physicians and scientists to identify and recruit patients from across the five health campuses based on diagnosis and demographics, with more characteristics to be added soon.

UC BRAID held its annual retreat on Sept. 14

UC BRAID held its annual retreat on Sept. 14 to review the progress made with the five-campus collaboration, which launched in 2010.

“UC ReX is a unique resource that will expand our clinical trial networks, enhance outcomes research, and facilitate quality-of-care studies,” said UC BRAID vice-chair Gary Firestein, MD, dean and associate vice chancellor of translational medicine and director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute at UC San Diego. “These efforts, particularly UC ReX, demonstrate how much five institutions with aligned goals can accomplish in a short period of time,” he said.

Other successful UC BRAID initiatives include:

  • A Memorandum of Understanding that allows streamlined approvals for multicenter clinical trials by extending Institutional Review Board review for all protocols at all five health campuses;
  • Master Clinical Trial Agreements, led by UCOP, which cover more than 75 percent of clinical trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. These agreements are essential for expediting negotiations and getting trials under way.

Leveraging Combined Resources

“UC BRAID is the orchestrating force unifying clinical and translational investigation for the newly integrated University of California, one of the world’s leading research universities,” said Steven Dubinett, MD, associate vice chancellor for research at UCLA and director of the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“As a consortium, this group represents some of the finest research institutions in the country,” said Lars Berglund, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Center at UC Davis, which sponsored the event. “The potential that we can achieve together far exceeds what any of us can achieve individually.”

UC BRAID also is helping UC researchers embrace the new reality of biomedical science, said Dan Cooper MD, director of the UC Irvine Institute for Clinical Translational Science.

“We are in a transformative epoch, moving from a model of discovery that emphasized individual investigator's accomplishments to one in which the sheer volume of knowledge, information and expertise required to advance therapy mandates team and multidisciplinary approaches,” Cooper said.

All five UC medical campuses are recipients of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.