Latest News from Around the CTSA Program Consortium

Dr. Walther-Antonio sits at her lab bench Mayo Clinic
Mayo Researcher Challenges Her Team to Develop Solution for DRC Health Crisis

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., is heading the development of a home-based test for human papillomavirus to address high cervical cancer rates linked to widespread sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The team has been at it for three years and they’re getting ready to start phase 1 clinical trials.

Realistically, within a few years, a woman in the DRC could be handed a test kit from a worker in a humanitarian aid mobile unit and shown how to use the kit in the privacy of her home — without having to make an often-dangerous trip to a medical facility. The test strip will indicate whether or not she needs to seek lifesaving medical care.

“I feel if I can help, it’s my responsibility to do so,” she says. “You never know when a problem could go unsolved if you do not help.”

Dr. Walther-Antonio is a current Mayo Clinic KL2 Mentored Career Developement Scholar. 

August 19, 2019

"The SMART IRB Platform: A National Resource for IRB Review for Multisite Studies," published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science

Harvard Catalyst

The SMART IRB team has published a new paper that provides background and updates on the platform and Agreement.

Excerpt from abstract:

Single institutional review board (IRB) review of multisite research increased in frequency over a decade ago with a proliferation of master IRB reliance agreements supporting statewide and regional consortia and disease- and population-specific networks. Although successful, the increasing number of agreements presented significant challenges and illuminated potential benefits of a single, nationwide agreement. Anticipated changes in federal regulations highlighted the need to systematize and simplify IRB reliance. 

August 15, 2019

A doctor wearing a white lab coat speaks with a patient VCU Marketing
VCU Wright Center-funded Study Finds Family Medicine Physicians Often Inaccurately Estimate Patients’ Geographic Footprint

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

A study funded through the Virginia Commonwealth University C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research found that family medicine physicians often overestimate the geographic footprint of their practice. “It is important for a doctor to know where their patient comes from,” said study co-investigator Alex Krist, M.D. Krist serves as the co-director of community-engaged research at the Wright Center. “This study revealed that doctors don’t understand the footprint of where their patients came from as well as they thought.”

August 14, 2019

Mr. Wright and Dr. Moeller stand next to each other Eric Peters, MCV Foundation
The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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

Supporting cross-disciplinary research is one of the primary goals of Virginia Commonwealth University’s C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Established in 2007, the center provides resources to encourage collaboration among VCU investigators and students, community partners and government organizations to advance the scientific study of human health.

Last fall, VCU College of Engineering assistant professor Rene Olivares-Navarrete, D.D.S., Ph.D., received a grant from the Wright Center to fund his research to pinpoint how e-cigarette vapor causes craniofacial defects. Olivares-Navarrete has received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health for some of his e-cigarette research, but federal funding is increasingly difficult to secure. “NIH funding is extremely competitive,” he said. “Sometimes the difference between your proposal and another is the amount of institutional support you have behind you.”

August 14, 2019

Dr. Zhu sits at his desk wearing a button-up shirt VCU Massey Cancer Center
VCU Clinical Research KL2 Scholar designs drug delivery systems to test nanovaccines for brain and skin cancer

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

While walking between meetings and the lab he maintains on the Virginia Commonwealth University MCV Campus, Wright Center Clinical Research KL2 Scholar Guizhi (Julian) Zhu, Ph.D., often crosses paths with cancer patients in the VCU Medical Center corridors. The encounters serve as daily inspiration for the VCU School of Pharmacy assistant professor.

“I sometimes feel helpless because I can’t do much for them at that moment other than saying some kind words,” Zhu said. “Those are the moments that help me focus on my research to potentially have an impact that can change or improve therapeutic outcomes for cancer patients.”

Zhu uses innovative drug delivery platforms to test the efficacy of novel immunotherapies for a variety of disease types, including skin, liver, brain, colorectal, and breast cancers. In addition to being appointed as a Clinical Research KL2 Scholar in 2018, he received a Wright Center Endowment Fund earlier this year and in August was among 18 VCU faculty members to receive a Presidential Research Quest Fund from the VCU Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

August 09, 2019

UNC TRaCS logo NC TraCS Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
UNC-Chapel Hill collaborates with NC Department of Public Safety, Durham County Sheriff’s Office on opioid addiction treatment

NC TraCS Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, the home of the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute, will collaborate with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the Durham County Sheriff’s Office to implement and evaluate two new opioid addiction treatment programs for people in the criminal justice system. Both of these projects are part of a new initiative by the NIH that created a network to improve opioid addiction treatment in criminal justice settings.

UNC-Chapel Hill will collaborate with the NC Department of Public Safety to link people in community supervision in Brunswick County to medication-assisted treatment via peer support specialists.This project is funded under NIDA’s $10.8 million grant to Brown University.

Carolina will also collaborate with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office to link people in the Durham County Detention Center to substance use and primary care services via a community health worker with the Carolina-led Formerly Incarcerated Transition Program. This project is funded under a separate JCOIN grant to Yale University.

August 08, 2019

Nurse holds an elderly patient's hand. Patient is wearing an oxygen monitor. Mayo Clinic
Training the new scientists of aging

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

There are upwards of 7,000 geriatricians in the United States, only a handful are prepared to do geroscience.

“Trained geroscientists are urgently needed to facilitate clinical trials that target fundamental aging mechanisms,” says Robert Pignolo, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and director of the Translation and Pharmacology Program at Mayo’s Robert and Alrene Kogod Center on Aging. “Addressing this gap would accelerate our ability to bring solutions into routine patient care.”

To this end, Mayo Clinic is unveiling a first-of-its kind geroscience training program. This program is a collaboration between the Kogod Center on Aging, the Division fo Geratric Medicien and Gerontology,m and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science. 

August 07, 2019

Dr. Agyemang smiles in the breezeway of a hospital wearing an orange and red patterned dress. Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing
A VCU researcher is exploring the relationship between sleep and how the mind works

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

While completing a doctorate in clinical psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Amma Agyemang, Ph.D., developed an interest in the effects that chronic medical conditions have on sleep and cognitive functioning. For her dissertation, she tested an online therapy for insomnia among people who were newly diagnosed with cancer. “One of the key weaknesses of the study was that we didn’t have objective data,” she said of the intervention that measured sleep quality subjectively through diaries and a self-reported questionnaire. “I always wanted to do a study that measures sleep objectively.”

In May, Agyemang got her chance to pursue that long-held interest through a Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research, which was awarded to the VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The funding allows Agyemang to devote 75 percent of her time to training and research activities for two years. The Wright Center is eligible for the supplement as a member of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program.

August 06, 2019

Elisabeth Fall
Tapping into the Diverse Bay Area Population through CTSI Research Facilities

UC San Francisco

The space and staff of any clinical research study can have an impact on the retention of participants and success of the trial. For pediatric clinical research, which includes infants to adolescents, these factors may weigh even more. Parents go out of their way to have their children participate in research, so a welcoming, professional environment makes all the difference.

Michael D. Cabana, MD, MPH, professor and director of the Division of General Pediatrics has used UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (CTSI) Clinical Research Services (CRS) for several studies over the past two decades. His research team used CRS facilities at Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, which tapped into the diverse Bay Area community to make up the cohort for his Trial of Infant Probiotic Supplementation (TIPS) study. Additionally, Cabana along with Homer Boushey, MD, professor of medicine utilized the pediatric and adult facilities in both Oakland and San Francisco for the grant they received in 2009 to conduct various asthma-related clinical trials, putting UCSF on the map as one of the 9 AsthmaNet sites awarded by NHLBI.

August 06, 2019

NCATS Flickr
4 CTSA Evaluation Improvement Opportunities

Wake Forest School of Medicine

Evaluators have strongly felt that more strategic approach to CTSA Evaluation is needed. The authors recognize the need to have a guiding document that can be used for the entire consortium. In late 2017 a group of evaluators formed the Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards (CTSA) Evaluation Guidelines Workgroup, co-chaired by Tanha Patel (Wake Forest) and Julie Rainwater, PhD (University of California at Davis). The charge: assess progress made in evaluating the CTSA program, nationally and at hub level, based on the recommendations made in 2013 by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) review of the CTSA Program and guidelines published in Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.

August 06, 2019

Female pharmacy student standing in medical closet holding a prescription bottle Howard University
Howard University launches pilot collaboration with NIH intramural research program

Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS)

Howard University, one of the five member institutions that comprise the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS), has recently launched the NIH-Howard University Intramural Research Collaboration (NIH-HUIRC). This partnership with the National Institute of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program will provide Howard students and junior faculty with opportunities to enhance their research investigator skills through mentorships, training, and multidisciplinary collaborations.

The mission of the NIH-HUIRC resonates with the founding principles of GHUCCTS, particularly the promotion of collaboration among scientific investigators as well as the implementation of innovative educational training programs. GHUCCTS, which offers complementary opportunities through its TL1, KL2, and pilot translational science programs, sees this as an opportunity to provide increased resources to emerging investigators. GHUCCTS leadership plans to develop synergies between NIH-HUIRC and the GHUCCTS training programs that will offer junior faculty and students a broader range of programs, mentors, and services.

August 02, 2019

Three pill bottles with red and white pills pouring out of one and the words "opioid epidemic" on a sheet of paper iStock
Supplement Addresses Effect of Opioid Crisis on State Governments

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Research from Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute on the societal costs of the opiod epidemic is featured in a supplement from the The American Journal of Managed Care.The supplement will inform a variety of community audiences including policymakers. The supplement also explores the effect of the crisis on state governments, including the costs to employment and labor market productivity, burdens on the child welfare system and special education, the increased costs to the criminal justice system, and the economic burden on state Medicaid programs. 

August 01, 2019

A group of people collaborating around a computer Teresa Crawford
Coaching Scientists to Play Well Together

Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute

When scientists from different disciplines collaborate – as is increasingly necessary to confront the complexity of challenging research problems – interpersonal tussles often arise. One scientist may accuse another of stealing his or her ideas. Or, a researcher may feel he or she is not getting credit for their work or doesn’t have access to important data from the study. However, with the increasing popularity of team science, the ability to collaborate is critical, especially as many National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation grants require applicants to show readiness for team science

Researchers from Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute have developed a free online training tool that can help. The tool,, has been proven to help scientists develop skills to work with others outside their own discipline. A new study showed that scientists who completed the program’s modules – called COALESCE – significantly boosted their knowledge about team science and increased their self-confidence about being able to successfully work in scientific teams.

July 25, 2019

An EKG within a red heart Getty Images
Feeling Healthy - a Good Start, but Not Always a Good Indicator of Heart Disease Risk

Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

Most people feel they have a general idea of how healthy they are based on their diet and exercise regimen and how often they get sick. However, a new study being conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine is contributing to evidence that a person's perception of how healthy they are isn’t always an accurate indicator of their risk for cardiovascular disease. In a study of medical information gathered from more than 6,800 people in the United States, the researchers found that 10% of those who rated themselves in excellent health actually had measurable evidence of cardiovascular disease without symptoms, thus putting them at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.

July 25, 2019

Keto-friendly foods on a counter with a notebook open to a page with the words "Keto Diet" and a healthy eating pyramid on it Getty Images
Low-Carb ‘Keto’ Diet (‘Atkins-Style’) May Modestly Improve Cognition in Older Adults

Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR)

In a pilot study of 14 older adults with mild cognitive problems suggestive of early Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet may improve brain function and memory.

Researchers say that finding participants willing to undertake restrictive diets for the three-month study — or partners willing to help them stick to those diets — was challenging. However, those who adhered to a modified Atkins diet (very low carbohydrates and extra fat) had small but measurable improvements on standardized tests of memory compared with those on a low-fat diet.

July 25, 2019

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