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UC Partnership Gets NIH Designation as Center to Improve Heart, Lung Health

$12M Grant Awarded to Translate Discoveries into Products for Patient Benefit

A consortium of the five University of California medical campuses – Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco – has been awarded a $12 million grant and designated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as one of three Centers for Accelerated Innovations by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The designation, among the first of its kind from NHLBI, recognizes the University of California’s potential to translate its leading-edge discoveries into innovative products that benefit patients.

The University of California Center for Accelerated Innovation (UC CAI) will leverage the expertise and resources of the five state medical campuses and use industrial product-development practices to incubate technologies with high commercial potential. The five campuses accounted for 7 percent of NHLBI’s fiscal year 2012 grant funding, providing a rich research base to support a diverse pipeline of diagnostics, devices, therapeutics and tools for heart, lung and blood diseases.

The UC CAI, whose administration will be based at UCLA, has four goals:

  • Engage University of California heart, lung and blood disease innovators in entrepreneurism through a comprehensive education, training and mentorship program.
  • Solicit and select technologies with high commercial potential that align with NHLBI’s mission and address unmet medical needs or significant scientific opportunity.
  • Incubate our most promising technologies in accordance with industry requirements to facilitate their transition to commercial products that improve patient care and enhance health.
  • Create a high-performing sustainable infrastructure that will serve as a model to academic research centers.

The UC Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration and Development (UC BRAID), a consortium linking the five medical campuses to facilitate contracting, data sharing, regulatory oversight and other activities, will oversee this effort.

"The launch of this program is a remarkable example inter-institutional collaboration,” said Gary Firestein, MD, director of the University of California, San Diego’s Clinical and Translational Research Institute and chair of UC BRAID. “The leaders of engineering, business and medical schools across the five campuses developed a shared vision and worked with UC BRAID to create an extraordinary proposal. The new resources will dramatically accelerate the development of novel diagnostics, therapies and devices discovered at the University of California.”

The new center will be closely integrated with the translational research institutes on each campus funded by Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), including UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which will provide full access to research resources on each campus, including clinical research facilities and labs, access to research cores, biostatistical support, bioinformatics, pilot funding, regulatory consultations and research education and training.

The UC CAI also will have access to local biomedical industry organizations, healthcare agencies, clinical networks, public health departments, nonprofit research institutes, venture capitalists, investors and manufacturers of medical devices, diagnostic equipment and pharmaceuticals, which have developed close interactions with CTSA-funded institutes and centers.

“Each of the UCs is a powerhouse, but together we are unstoppable,” said Clay Johnston, MD, PhD, director of CTSI at UCSF. “There is so much more we can do in collaboration and UC BRAID is helping us realize that.”

In addition to the considerable support from the CTSAs, each campus will bring its own unique expertise and resources.

Innovators can access resources across all five campuses, including UCLA’s tissue array and translational pathology cores, San Diego’s biomarker and cardiovascular physiology core, San Francisco’s small molecule discovery center and airway clinical research center, Irvine’s mechanical testing, microscopy and cell and tissue cores specifically for cardiovascular technology and Davis’ animal research center.

A skills development program will provide training and education in entrepreneurism and coordinated access to expert mentors. This educational training will help bridge the gap for scientists who lack an understanding of the commercialization potential of their discoveries.

“By aligning our efforts, researchers will have broad access to an even broader array of research cores and education programs,” said Lars Berglund, MD, PhD, director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center. “This collaboration will offer robust internship programs, expanded partnerships with outside private and public organizations and new curricular offerings to enrich and complement our already innovative approaches, while not detracting from or prolonging the existing training time.”

UCSF's CTSI is a member of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant Number UL1 TR000004) at the NIH. Under the banner of "Accelerating Research to Improve Health," CTSI provides a wide range of resources and services for researchers, and promotes online collaboration and networking tools such as UCSF Profiles.