Latest News from Around the CTSA Program Consortium

NIH needs your innovative research ideas through our newly announced NIH HEAL Initiative funding opportunities


NIH leadership from across the agency has been working diligently over the past several months to identify areas of greatest opportunity for research to address the national opioid crisis. The result is more than 30 new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) to solicit the best and brightest research ideas through the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM) Initiative.

Through these and other investments, NIH plans to award more than $850 million in support of HEAL Initiative research in fiscal year (FY) 2019 (from funds appropriated in FY 2018 and FY 2019). This adds to a substantial investment made by NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) in the areas of pain, addiction, complementary medicine, and much more.

The NIH HEAL Initiative is taking an “all-hands-on deck” approach to this crisis, garnering expertise from almost every NIH IC to attack the problem from all angles. New HEAL programs reflect the full spectrum of research from basic science to implementation research and across all disciplines.

December 10, 2018

Updated date: Mon, 12/10/2018 - 1:56pm
The role of translational research in using video to capture health vitals

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Conrad Tucker, associate professor of engineering design and industrial and manufacturing engineering at Penn State, was giving a talk on the idea of using technology to capture students’ body posture to determine their attention level in the classroom. In the audience was a member of Parkinson’s disease researcher and clinician Xuemei Huang's research team, who approached Tucker afterward to discuss a connection between his talk and Huang’s research into using changes in a person’s walking gait to diagnose Parkinson’s earlier. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

“Sometimes, those type of chance meetings are the best opportunities,” Tucker said. This one has led to an opportunity to apply his research in the laboratory into improving human health. That’s the foundation of translational research and the ultimate goal of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

December 06, 2018

Updated date: Fri, 12/07/2018 - 4:21pm
Alligator tank judges Mayo Clinic
Two minutes to win it

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Nine teams of Mayo Clinic employees pitched their ideas for health care innovations at the second annual Alligator Tank competition at the Mayo Clinic Florida campus on November 14, 2018.  Each team was given 120 seconds to explain their solution to a problem in the medical field before a live audience and a panel of expert judges -- or "alligators."

The evening event was moderated by Charles Bruce, M.D., chief innovation officer for Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus and medical director for the campus Life Sciences Incubator, who emphasized the criteria by which the judges would evaluate pitches. Teams had to answer the following questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution?
  • Why you?
  • Why now?
  • What is the business case?

The top three pitches advance to the next level of the competition, Walleye Tank, on Mayo’s Rochester campus December 7.

December 05, 2018

Updated date: Thu, 12/06/2018 - 9:34am
KL2 Scholar Leads UCLA Team that Finds New Target for Diagnosing and Treating Lung Cancer


Researchers led by Claudio Scafoglio have identified a protein that cancer cells need to use glucose, which is essential for tumor growth and survival. The finding suggests that the protein, the sodium-dependent glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2), is a novel biomarker that doctors may one day use to detect lung cancer early, when tumors are small and  easier to treat. Using a  radioactive tracer to hone in on SGLT2, Scafoglio's team found tumors that were otherwise undetectable. In addition, the team found that canagliflozin, an FDA-approved diabetes drug, slowwed the growth of tumors in mice. The research was published in Science Translational Medicine. Scafolgil's mentor and senior author, David Shackelford, is a fomer KL2 scholar. This the research also demonstrates a  “daisy chain” approach to translational science training, in which theKL2 program produces scientific leaders who, in turn, train new KL2 scholars.

December 04, 2018

Updated date: Thu, 12/06/2018 - 9:33am
Lauren Rivera Pagan, Alejandro Loyola Velez, Amanda Toledo Hernandez Mayo Clinic
Medical Students from Puerto Rico Rise to the Challenge

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

The challenge of surviving the first year of medical school took on unusual urgency for students at the University of Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck the island in September 2017. However, under adverse conditions, many students not only survived but thrived. And they’re more driven than ever to succeed. This summer, a contingent of students passed up the opportunity to take a much needed holiday from work and study. Instead, they applied to the clinical and translational science summer research program at Mayo Clinic.

December 04, 2018

Updated date: Thu, 12/06/2018 - 9:32am
A study at UCSF is using electronic health records to guide weight loss management for newborns and to help make decisions about whether supplemental feeding or other interventions might be warranted. Alain McLaughlin
Measuring Newborns’ Weight Loss With Electronic Health Records to Give Babies a Healthy Start

UC San Francisco CTSI

Reducing the Need for Non-Preventive Healthcare Utilization in the First Month of Life

Weight loss is normal for healthy newborns in the first few days, especially for those exclusively breastfed, until mothers begin to produce copious amounts of milk about two to five days after giving birth. While this dip in weight is normal, it can be stressful for parents and family members and can also have health consequences, because weight loss that is more pronounced than normal can lead to hyperbilirubinemia and dehydration.

Taken together, these problems are frequent barriers to a healthy first month of life and cause the majority of neonatal readmissions.

A new study at UC San Francisco called Healthy Start is using the electronic health record (EHR) to guide management of newborn weight loss from the very first day after birth to prevent health problems for infants.

The Healthy Start study aims to deliver decision support to health care providers caring for newborns that helps them reassure parents about normal newborn weight loss patterns, and decide whether their weight loss is more than expected.

December 04, 2018

Updated date: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 1:29pm
UCLA CTSI Lent Support to Development of New, FDA-Approved Cancer Drug


The UCLA CTSI's clinical research infrastructure supported the UCLA arm of a multisite study that led  to the FDA's recent approval of larotrectinib, a drug that targets specific genetic mutations found in a variety of cancers. Noah Federman, medical director of the CTSI's Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC), led the study at UCLA.

Larotrectinib belongs to a class of therapies know as tyrosine kinanse inhibitors (TKI). The second "tissue agnostic" drug approved by the FDA, larotrectinib can be used to treat any kind of cancer that harbors a specific mutation.

Dr. Federman was among the investigators who reported early promising results from the larotrectinib trial in February in the New England Journal of Medicine. More recently, at the Connective Tissue Oncology Society Meeting in Rome, Dr. Federman reported that cancers in 81 percent of patients responded to the drug at one year. In bone and soft tissue sarcoma, the response rate was an an unprecedented 93 percent. 

December 03, 2018

Updated date: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 12:06pm
Julie Jacobs, Phil Westgate, Christina Studts, Joneen Lowman, and Matt Bush Bryan Sanders, UK CCTS
$3.4 Million Grant Empowers UK, U of L, and State Commission to Support Kentucky Children with Hearing Loss and Deafness

University of Kentucky Center for Clinical & Translational Science

Social worker and public health researcher Tina Studts and otolaryngologist Matt Bush have been collaborating in community-engaged research for six years, since they first met as KL2 Scholars. Their work has culminated in an R01 grant to implement and study a family support program for children with hearing loss and their caregivers, with the aim of increasing positive parenting, decreasing disruptive behavior, and improving treatment and speech outcomes.

December 03, 2018

Updated date: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 12:08pm
Anna Doyle
TriNetX Hall of Fame

University of Iowa

Over the past year, TriNetX has become an integral tool for conducting clinical research at the University of Iowa.

TriNetX allows our users to collaborate, enhance their study design, accelerate the patient recruitment process, and bring new therapies to market faster.

To honor our most frequent users, we have awarded certificates to three individuals with the most queries from each of the three categories of users: faculty, staff, and students. Learn how these users are utilizing TriNetX to make their research more accurate and to accelerate their findings.

December 03, 2018

Updated date: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:31am
Community Engagement Studios used for development of universal depression screening project

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Penn State College of Medicine’s Dr. Deepa Sekhar will partner with six urban Pennsylvania public high schools and involve more than 9,000 students in research to address the rise of depression and suicide in children. Sekhar’s team is studying use of a school-based screening for clinical depression and was recently awarded a three-year, $2 million funding award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The project was developed with help from Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Community Engagement Studios.

Clinical depression, also called major depressive disorder, has symptoms that include intense feelings of sadness, irritability, loss of interest in activity that is typically enjoyed and the inability to perform day-to-day activities. Doctors and other medical professionals identifying depressed adolescents has not been enough. Only 2 percent of doctor’s office visits include the screenings, even though the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends universal depression screening for 12- to 18-year-olds.

December 03, 2018

Updated date: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:16am
Mayo Clinic
A Passion for Serving Underserved Communities

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Concerned by health disparities in African-American communities, Mayo Clinic cardiologist LaPrincess Brewer, M.D., developed a program that partners with local churches to foster healthy lifestyle choices and improve heart health.

December 03, 2018

Updated date: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:11am
Medical University of South Carolina
Targeting sepsis, the leading cause of ICU deaths, with a nanocarrier-delivered microRNA

South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute, Medical University of South Carolina

One in three patients who die in the U.S. dies of sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is one of the leading causes of death in ICUs and the most expensive condition that hospitals treat.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) report in Inflammation that sepsis outcomes in a preclinical model significantly improved when a microRNA (miRNA), specifically miR-126, which is known to protect against sepsis, was delivered via a nanocarrier. Almost 67 percent of mice treated with one of the nanocarrier/miR-126 complexes were still alive at seven days vs. just 25 percent of untreated mice.

"The exciting part is that we can use nanoparticles as a delivery system to carry microRNAs. It's feasible--we can do this," says Hongkuan Fan, Ph.D., senior author of the article and an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at MUSC who studies vascular dysfunction in sepsis. Joy N. Jones Buie, Ph.D., MSCR, a postdoctoral fellow at MUSC, was first author on the publication. The researchers received voucher funding from the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute, a CTSA hub.

December 03, 2018

Updated date: Mon, 12/03/2018 - 1:58pm
Mayo Clinic
Addressing disparities in care, to the very end of life

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Recently, a team led by Amelia Barwise, M.B.B.Ch., a pulmonary and critical care researcher at Mayo Clinic examined end-of-life decision making in the intensive care unit. Dr. Barwise is also a pre-doctoral (Ph.D.) student in the Clinical and Translational Science Track of the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

“We believed that conversations  about complex and sensitive issues at end of life,” says Dr. Barwise, “combined with limited English proficiency, could easily cause suboptimal communication, and in turn to a lower quality of care.”

Dr. Barwise and her fellow researchers sought to determine if there were differences in decision making and care for patients in the ICU, by examining differences in code status and health care utilization as well as advance care planning for patients with limited English proficiency. Their findings are published in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 

November 21, 2018

Updated date: Mon, 11/26/2018 - 2:32pm
Getty Images
Can liver disease be linked to heart failure? VCU study highlights liver-heart interaction

Virginia Commonwealth University C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have collaborated on a clinical trial that identifies indicators for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease — a typically asymptomatic disease caused by fat buildup in the liver and the leading cause of liver disease in the United States.

Mohammad Siddiqui, M.D., an associate professor in the VCU School of Medicine, and researchers with expertise in cardiology, hepatology, and exercise physiology have been conducting research with a focus on the link between heart and liver damage. Their efforts have resulted in a study in which they draw a connection between patients with aggressive types of fatty liver disease and limitations in exercise capacity.

Siddiqui is senior author of the study, “Diastolic Dysfunction and Exercise Intolerance are Linked to Severity of Hepatic Fibrosis in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” which the team recently presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions conference in Chicago.

November 20, 2018

Updated date: Mon, 11/26/2018 - 2:31pm
Video game console
Can Video Games Improve the Health of Older Adults with Schizophrenia?

University of California, San Francisco CTSI

UCSF's CTSI supported the development of the program through two strategic opportunity support awards. One award funded the preliminary feasibility and acceptability test of the program in older adults with schizophrenia, and the other award funded a small RCT of the program in adults 18-64 years old with schizophrenia.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders affect an estimated 820,000 to 2.1 million people in the US, many of whom have co-occurring disorders like heart disease or diabetes that contribute to an increased risk of premature death. Heather Leutwyler, associate professor of Physiological Nursing at the UC San Francisco School of Nursing, aims to lower the toll these disorders have on older people with schizophrenia and improve their functioning by getting them up and moving.

The method? Video games.

November 15, 2018

Updated date: Thu, 11/15/2018 - 4:10pm
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