Latest News from Around the CTSA Program Consortium

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Improving health globally by studying health locally

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Mayo Clinic has been partnering with Olmsted Medical Center and several other regional health care providers for more than 50 years in an initiative called the Rochester Epidemiology Project. This collaboration stretches across 27 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, allowing researchers to study health and illnesses in the people living in the region or in specific counties. Most recent additions to the collaboration include Olmsted County Public Health Services, Zumbro Valley Health Center and several dental practices.

This collaboration and sharing of medical information makes the area of Minnesota and Wisconsin one of the few places in the United States where “population-based” research can be accomplished. The results inform both our understanding of diseases as well as how we prevent and treat them.

February 13, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 02/13/2019 - 11:06am
Ben Schussler Susan McClellen
Minnesota boy is 'frequent flyer' for clinical trial at University of Iowa Clinical Research Unit

University of Iowa

Once a week, Ben Schussler boards a plane and comes to the University of Iowa Clinical Research Unit within University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics to receive experimental treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystophy (DMD). Ben is part of a clinical trial testing to see whether a new therapy will change the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Learn more about Ben's journey and how he is giving back to the clinical research unit to make it more child-friendly for other kids. 

February 11, 2019

Updated date: Tue, 02/12/2019 - 4:32pm
Craig Hutson Photography
There are no targeted drugs to treat triple-negative breast cancer. A VCU student aims to fix that.

VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

More than 268,000 people will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in 2019. Of them, 20 percent will learn they have triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that tests negative for the three most common receptors known to fuel breast cancer growth — estrogen, progesterone and a protein called human epidermal growth factor. Since triple-negative breast cancer lacks the receptors that would allow it to be targeted by currently available drugs, physicians are limited in their ability to treat it.

“Given the current standard of care, patients who are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer don’t do as well as patients who have other forms of the disease,” said Tia Turner, a Virginia Commonwealth University M.D.-Ph.D. student.Turner is pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical and translational sciences with a concentration in cancer and molecular medicine through the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research. She recently received a National Cancer Institute grant to fund her research, which is aimed at uncovering novel drug combinations to treat triple-negative breast cancer.

February 07, 2019

Updated date: Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:38pm
Project recently funded by NIH is example of pilot grant program success

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

How adversity early in life can lead to susceptibility to disease will be studied through a project initially funded through Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Bridges to Translation pilot grant program. Idan Shalev, PhD, Mark T. Greenberg Early Career Professor for the Study of Children’s Health and Development, and assistant professor of biobehavioral health, was recently awarded funding through the National Institute on Aging to better understand how immune cells react and adapt to stress.

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute provides the tools, resources and training to help the Penn State community move its health research more efficiently and effectively out of the science laboratories and into use by the people and communities who need it. Its pilot grant program helps build collaborations and works to remove roadblocks that prevent research in the laboratories from getting to patients in healthcare clinics. It also provides researchers an opportunity to explore novel ideas to collect the data needed to apply for external funding opportunities.

February 06, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 02/06/2019 - 4:19pm
SC-CTSI Launches Free CRC Development and Clinical Trial Monitoring Training

Southern California CTSI

The Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC-CTSI) has developed a freely available self-study module that can be used to train academic researchers in essential concepts and practical approaches to monitoring of clinical studies. The module addresses the need for quality management across the clinical trial lifecycle as stated in the latest addendum to ICH Guideline for Good Clinical Practice (GCP), E6(R2).

This comprehensive tool fills an unmet need while addressing unique issues associated with conducting research at academic medical centers. Two separate surveys of research professionals in Southern California revealed that only about 65% reported monitoring in their investigator-initiated trials. Similar results were found at poll of attendees at a national ACRP meeting and TIN online forum.

Participants can view the training module and take quizzes along the way to assess their learning. They will receive a certificate of completion upon successful completion of the module. In addition, the training tool offers downloadable templates they can use to create monitoring plans and reports and SOPs and checklists for the 4 different type

February 05, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:04am
U-BRITE Day Demonstrates Value of Informatics Tools for Breaking Down Scientific Data Siloes

University of Alabama at Birmingham CCTS

Co-sponsored by UAB Informatics Institute and the CCTS, the inaugural UAB-Biomedical Research Infrastructure Technology Enhancement (U-BRITE) Day featured "proof of concept" translational research projects that demonstrated the value of HIPAA-compliant, high-performance informatics tools for merging, managing, and analyzing clinical and genomic data sets. The emergent U-BRITE platform also offers a "translational research commons" component that enables interdisciplinary team science regardless of geographic location. The vision for U-BRITE was to find a solution that could scale to empower team science across UAB and beyond. To test the U-BRITE concept, the Institute put out a request for proposals, seeking a variety of knotty, real-world research problems. “We figured if we could solve their problems, we had solved problems for translational genomic/phenomic team science,” said II Director Dr. James Cimino. “And if we did it for several of them, it would be a generic solution, not a one-off.”

February 05, 2019

Updated date: Tue, 02/05/2019 - 3:01pm
Courtesty Sinem Esra Sahingur, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Clinician-scientist finds a balance between career and family

VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

As a clinician-scientist, Sinem Esra Sahingur, D.D.S., Ph.D., teaches at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, conducts research in the laboratory she manages in the school’s Department of Periodontics and the Philips Institute for Oral Health Research, and sees patients at VCU dental clinics.

“Balancing is so important,” the 47-year-old dentist said.

Sahingur has balanced a career in academia with raising two sons and accommodating her husband’s professional advancements along with her own. She was 40 weeks pregnant when she defended her doctoral dissertation at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Six days later, she delivered her second child. For more than three years prior, Sahingur worked on her thesis and completed a clinical residency program in periodontics in New York while raising her older son as her husband, Emre, worked in Richmond. After graduating, she interviewed for a faculty position at VCU, but with an infant and young child, she and Emre decided it would be better for the family if she took time off from work.

“We don’t have any family here, so I needed to stay at home,” she said.

February 01, 2019

Updated date: Tue, 02/05/2019 - 2:46pm
LGB and other sexual minorities face significant health disparities

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Sexual minorities — people who are attracted to members of the same sex or who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual — are at a higher risk for several different health problems at different points in their lives, according to Penn State researchers. 

The researchers found that sexual minorities were more likely to experience drug and alcohol use disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders, and cardiovascular disease, among other negative health outcomes.

Cara Rice, assistant research professor in Penn State's Methodology Center, said increased stress stemming from discrimination and prejudice could be a potential reason for these disparities. Rice is a KL2 scholar.

January 31, 2019

Updated date: Thu, 01/31/2019 - 4:15pm
The Chesterfield Observer
After the overdose: New clinical trial focuses on treating opioid abuse

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

As director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Virginia's only CTSA-funded institution, F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., works with organizations and institutions across the state to promote research for better health. He is overseeing a new clinical trial to treat opioid-addicted patients once they have been brought back from an overdose. The clinical trial, which involves the state health department and several Virginia hospitals and medical schools, tests monthly courses of Sublocade injections that start right after patients are revived from an overdose. “Our hypothesis is that we will see a reduction in opioid-induced deaths,” Moeller says. 

January 23, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 01/23/2019 - 5:34pm
orange smiling robot
Increasing Research Literacy with Zippy, a Virtual Research Navigator

Southern California CTSI

Patients from minority communities have long been reluctant to participate in research, due in part to a history of abuse in past studies. At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, white participants outnumber participants of color in research by 4-to-1. “As a result, our clinical trials don’t provide enough information about the health of communities of color and we don’t know if we’re going to get the same positive benefits in African-American or Latino populations,” says Michele Kipke, PhD, the hospital’s vice chair of Research in the Department of Pediatrics. Enter Zippy, a virtual research navigator who talks with kids and their parents about research, including risks and benefits and participants’ rights. Zippy is presented as a helper, not as a doctor or nurse, nor with any particular identity, so the information the robot provides is better received by a distrustful teen who appears with it in YouTube videos. Dr. Kipke’s team hopes the conversations will be repeated in real-life encounters. They are counting on Zippy’s wisdom, empathy and charm to help increase diversity in enrollment in CHLA’s research studies.

January 18, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 01/23/2019 - 11:09am
A man in his 20s in a dark suit and a blue and white checked shirt stands in front of the Penn State Old Main bell tower. Penn State
Translational science training programs credited with student success

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Scott Graupensperger is making the most of his Penn State education – delving into a number of training programs and experiences to prepare him for a research career. The dual-title kinesiology and clinical and translational sciences doctoral student has been a regular presence at Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which he credits with preparing him for his current successes and his future endeavors.

“The most salient aspect of my training at Penn State, that I believe is contributing to my future success as an independent scientist, is the opportunities for mentorship and development through the University’s institutes and centers,” Graupensperger said. “The Clinical and Translational Science Institute has been instrumental.”

Graupensperger has participated in two of the institute’s programs: the Translational Science Fellowship summer program and the year-long TL1 Translational Research Training Program. Both programs are currently accepting applications. 

January 17, 2019

Updated date: Fri, 01/18/2019 - 2:43pm
Mice image
UCSF CTSI Catalyst Awardees Apply CRISPR-mediated Activation to Obesity

UC San Francisco CTSI

Many diseases are caused by haploinsufficiency, where one of the two copies of the gene is non functional. In a recent Science publication, the authors used CRISPRa (CRISPR based activation) to upregulate the expression from the functional copy of the gene Sim1 or Mc4r to rescue the obesity phenotype in mouse models. The UCSF CTSI Catalyst project awarded in Spring 2017 to Nadav Ahituv, PhD and Navneet Matharu, PhD  (the last and first authors) uses the same CRISPRa approach applied to polycystic kidney disease which is also caused by haploinsufficiency.

Catalyst consultations refined their project plan for the polycystic kidney disease application. Catalyst interns helped them explore other potential diseases with haploinsufficiency and assisted with putting together a target product profile. See full article in Science Magazine, linked below. 

January 16, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 01/16/2019 - 4:05pm
Reviewing research Getty Images
A Model for Accelerating Translational Research in Real Time

Clinical & Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Before a clinical trial can begin, an institutional review board (IRB) must determine that the study is ethical and that participants’ rights are protected. This oversight step is crucial, but it can take a long time and delay studies from starting, particularly those at multiple sites. In response to numerous calls to reduce review times, the Clinical & Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin at the Medical College of Wisconsin devised "Real-Time IRB," a process that drastically reduces IRB review time.

In this, investigators and study staff attend the IRB meeting and make changes to the protocol while the IRB continues its meeting, so that final approval can be issued at the meeting. This achieved an overall reduction in time from submission to the IRB to final approval of 40%. While this process is time and resource intensive, and cannot address all delays in research, it shows great promise for increasing the pace by which research is translated to patient care.

January 03, 2019

Updated date: Mon, 01/07/2019 - 4:33pm
A Nurse-Led Intervention to Extend the HIV Treatment Cascade for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (EXTRA-CVD) Logo The EXTRA-CVD Study, Case Western Reserve University
$3M grant extends HIV intervention to prevent heart disease

Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative of Cleveland

Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative (CTSC) KL2 Scholar alumna, Allison Webel  RN, PhD, FAAN, received a four-year, $3-million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to fund her study “A Nurse-Led Intervention to Extend the HIV Treatment Cascade for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (EXTRA-CVD)". This study will test a nurse-led intervention to improve control of hypertension and hyperlipidemia in adults living with HIV.

Building on her interdisciplinary KL2 training through the CTSC, Dr. Webel is one of three Principal Investigators, along with Christopher Longenecker MD, a cardiovascular scientist from University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Hayden Bosworth, PhD a health services researcher and Professor of Medicine at Duke University.  For more information, please visit the EXTRA-CVD website at:

January 02, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 01/02/2019 - 4:21pm
Medicine professor named a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation

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

Professor, pulmonologist and cancer researcher Patrick Nana-Sinkam, M.D., has been elected as a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Membership is by election, and only researchers who are 50 years of age or younger are eligible for nomination.

One of the country’s oldest and most respected medical honor societies, the ASCI has more than 3,000 physician-scientist members who translate laboratory findings to the advancement of clinical practice. The society’s mission is to support the scientific efforts, educational needs and clinical aspirations of physician-scientists to improve human health.

Nana-Sinkam is the only Virginia physician-scientist to be elected this year and the 13th Virginia Commonwealth University faculty member to hold membership. He is a professor of medicine at the VCU School of Medicine and chair of the school’s Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine. He is also the KL2 program co-director at the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research and a member of VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Cancer Cell Signaling and Cancer Prevention and Control research program.

January 02, 2019

Updated date: Wed, 01/02/2019 - 1:31pm
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