Latest News from Around the CTSA Program Consortium

Penn State CTSI welcomes new KL2 scholar

Penn State CTSI

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute has welcomed a new scholar into its program that invests in early-career faculty. Dr. Steven Hicks, assistant professor of pediatrics, was named into the institute’s KL2 Training Program, which gives researchers establishing themselves in their fields dedicated time to help their findings benefit human health more quickly while becoming successful, independent translational scientists.

“As a KL2 scholar I’ll have the opportunity to expand my expertise in biostatistics and community engagement through protected career development time,” Hicks said. “My research project will engage stakeholders from the community, academia and industry to advance autism research here at Penn State.”

Hicks’ research looks to use saliva samples from hundreds of children with autism spectrum disorder to find RNA differences that could be used to diagnose the disorder.

Hicks joins seven other scholars who started in January after a competitive application process.

September 19, 2018

Kathleen Ferraro/Chicago ITM
ITM Researcher Building First Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Chicago Institute for Translational Medicine

What could be the first medical treatment for cocaine addiction is being created by Institute for Translational Medicine (ITM) researchers Ming Xu, PhD, and Xiaoyang Wu, PhD. Their research edits a patch of normal skin using an engineering technology that puts an anti-cocaine gene into skin stem cells. This system allows Xu and Wu to take a small section of skin, add the anti-cocaine gene to the skin’s cells, and then put it back onto the patient through a process called grafting, a routine procedure where a piece of skin is added onto the body.

The genetically-modified cells produce anti-cocaine proteins that enter the bloodstream and break down cocaine in a way that makes it unrewarding and nontoxic to the brain and body. And because the tool uses a routine skin grafting procedure, the process is safe, minimally invasive, and affordable.

The treatment could also scale to address other addictions, such as opioids, alcohol and cigarettes. With more than 15 million Americans suffering from alcoholism, and cigarette smoking accounting for one in every five deaths in the U.S., Xu and Wu’s treatment has the potential to help millions of patients.

September 18, 2018

Two women sit at a desk and talk. Penn State
Sekhar begins Community-Engaged Research Fellowship

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

There’s a difference between simply including in a research study the people a scientist wants to help and partnering with those people in the research process. That’s a lesson Dr. Deepa Sekhar learned while studying ways to better detect high-frequency noise-induced hearing loss in teenagers. She will continue to learn how to more effectively accomplish the latter through the year-long, Community-Engaged Research Core Faculty Fellowship of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The Community-Engaged Research Core Faculty Fellowship Program matches a researcher with a mentor and protects work time for research – important for a busy clinician helping patients. Community-engaged research meets the needs of the community by involving those who have an interest in improving health. This can include a community and its members, patients, clinicians, researchers, purchasers, payers, industry, hospitals and health systems, training institutions and policy makers. Applications are now being accepted for next year’s program.

September 11, 2018

Photograph by Emma Vought
Leukogene Therapeutics receives funding to develop compound for resistant multiple myeloma

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

A $2 million phase 2 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to optimize a promising new compound that has shown efficacy in preclinical studies against treatment-resistant multiple myeloma has been awarded to a Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) startup company, Leukogene Therapeutics, Inc., in collaboration with MUSC researcher and company founder, Nathan G. Dolloff, Ph.D. Dolloff and his team will use the STTR award to further develop the new compound into a drug that could be used with proteasome inhibitors in treatment-resistant multiple myeloma.While proteasome inhibitors kill cancer cells by preventing the breakdown of proteins, Dolloff's compound targets instead their synthesis, preventing proper folding, which is essential to protein function. Normally, unfolded or misfolded proteins would then be targeted to the proteasome for degradation to avoid the build-up of these dysfunctional proteins. However, in the presence of proteasome inhibitors, the breakdown is blocked, leading to the build-up of toxic misfolded proteins.In principle, the compound developed by Dolloff could offer a one-two punch when administered together with proteasome inhibitors.

August 30, 2018

Tight-knit teammates may conform to each other's behavior

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Good relationships between teammates are essential to a team’s success, but athletes who feel more closely connected to their teammates may also be more likely to be swayed by their fellow players’ behavior.

In a study with NCAA athletes, researchers found that the more closely a player identified as being part of their team, the more likely they were to conform to their teammates' behavior. This was true for both risky and positive behaviors.

Scott Graupensperger, a Penn State doctoral student in kinesiology and a former TL1 scholar through Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, said the results suggest that social groups — including sports teams, sororities and clubs, for example — should find ways to help members feel like part of the group without being pressured to engage in negative behavior.

August 30, 2018

Community members gather at the Garden Cafe on August 9, 2018, to discuss mental illness Mayo Clinic
Health research rooted in community

Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science

On August 9, 2018, a community garden in Rochester, Minnesota hosted an unusual gathering: a cook-out and a community conversation on mental illness.

At this meeting, more than a dozen members of the community assembled—grill tongs in hand—along with public health professionals and health researchers from Mayo Clinic, to talk about their experiences living with and managing mental illness.

This gathering was part of an ongoing series, hosted by the Mayo Clinic Community Engagement in Research Program, called “Garden Cafés,” designed to help promote a dialogue between community members, scientists, health care providers, and other service providers. The goal is to help improve health outcomes and to better address the unmet needs of patients, especially for patients with health disparities.

The Community Engagement in Research Program is part of the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

August 29, 2018

Governor Cooper and panel Marla Vacek Broadfoot
Multi-Institutional Workshop Identifies the "Known Unknowns" of Opioid Crisis

The North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC Tracs at UNC)

The concepts of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns apply not only to intelligence and politics, but to any discipline where the gathering of knowledge is paramount. An all-day, multi site workshop on the devastating opioid crisis was held to discuss these concepts. The event, called "Developing a Research Agenda for Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in NC," was held on May 16, 2018 at the Research Triangle Park (RTP) Conference Center in Durham. Participants included doctors and researchers from UNC, Duke, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and more. By Marla Vacek Broadfoot

August 27, 2018

Columbia University Responds to the Opioid Crisis

Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

On June 22, 2018 the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research hosted a symposium to stimulate collaborations among researchers, industry partners and the community to advance new efforts to address the opioid crisis. More than 200 attendees gathered for the Columbia Opioid Symposium titled “New Collaborations Towards New Solutions”.

The day began with plenary talks and presentations from across several domains including local efforts from Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and national efforts from Carlos Blanco from the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) to address the opioid crisis, as well as research updates from Columbia faculty. Michael Kurilla, Director of the Division of Clinical Innovation attended and gave an enlightening opioid research update from the NCATS perspective. A networking lunch followed where attendees, including researchers, community leaders and members of industry organizations were able to collaborate and connect. The day ended with two concurrent networking sessions – one focused on business synergies and the other on community engagement. Both of these sessions included presentations from each field and a panel discussion. The community session was co-hosted by the Irving Institute’s Community Engagement Core Resource (CECR), NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia School of Social Work and the Washington Heights Corner Project. The industry session was co-hosted by the Columbia Business School Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program and Columbia Technology Ventures.

August 24, 2018, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Translational Research Institute's (TRI) participant registry, has reached 5000 participants!


The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Translational Research Institute (TRI) participant registry,, has just reached a milestone with 5000 participants registered.  Recruitment for the registry has included public health fairs, educational events at the local level, the Arkansas State Fair and various sporting events.  Attendees are invited to "join the registry" and designate their areas of interest for a potential research study.  Registrants may only be contacted about studies that are in their chosen categories. To utilize the registry, investigators submit requests for accessing the participant list through the TRI Services Portal after receiving IRB approval. 

August 23, 2018

License: /licenses/by/4.0/.
First Successful Use of a Patient-Derived Xenograft (PDX) Model to Guide Cancer Treatment

Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative of Cleveland

Mohamed Abazeed, MD, PhD became a CTSC KL2 Scholar in 2015. His research program focuses on identifying the genetic abnormalities that give rise to therapeutic resistance in cancer and using this information to develop personalized therapeutic strategies in a new strategy of biologically-guided treatments. He uses his experiences in patient care to develop a clinically relevant research program to study cancers and to translate laboratory discoveries into potential improvements in clinical care.

Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models (immunodeficient mice engrafted with patients’ cancerous cells or tissues) have significantly enhanced cancer research in recent years. However, using PDX models to meet the urgent need for human cancer models to reliably predict clinical activity has proved challenging. Most cancer patients can’t wait months for the cells to become engrafted and grow and be used to test multiple drugs. "The average cancer grows too slowly to use PDX models to guide clinical decision-making. The patient will have received treatment long before the engraftment is ready for testing. By selecting cancers that grow aggressively, we can potentially develop PDX models in a timeframe that is clinically actionable. Using the PDX model, we were able to prospectively predict the patient’s response to first-line therapy and identify the most optimal second-line therapy,” says Dr. Abazeed.

August 15, 2018

Innovation & Awards Program OCTRI
Three researchers receive 2018 Biomedical Innovation Program Drug Discovery awards

Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Institute

Three drug discovery projects have been named recipients of the 2018 Biomedical Innovation Program awards. The awards program is a collaboration of the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute and Technology Transfer and Business Development.

The awards provide funds, project management, and mentorship to facilitate the development of innovative technologies at OHSU and accelerate their translation to the marketplace. This track of funding supports drug discovery platforms and early stage therapeutic technology projects.

August 15, 2018

Robert Schuff, OCTRI Informatics Program Director, OHSU
REDCap module brings new charting functionality to clinical research projects

Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Institute

The Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute’s informatics team has launched a new REDCap module for data visualization at OHSU. Over 2,400 OHSU researchers use REDCap to manage research data for their collective 1,600 projects.

While REDCap includes a wide variety of research data collection, management, reporting and security features that robustly support clinical research, Vizr brings new charting functionality to support recruitment and retention tracking, one of the most critical factors to successful clinical research projects. Vizr provides a flexible and intuitive way for investigators to monitor recruitment and retention performance against targets in real time. Vizr supports single and multi-site clinical research studies with ease as the figure shows.

August 15, 2018

Pittsburgh Works to Close Digital Divide with Health-Focused Apps

University of Pittsburgh CTSI

Technology is revolutionizing the healthcare industry, from the way we treat and dispense medicine to the greater control consumers can take over their health. The National Urban wants to make sure the Black community is an integral part of this new landscape.

August 13, 2018

Community Scientist Academy: Creating Community Advocates and Partners for Research

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Translational Research Institute (TRI)

The semi-annual Community Scientist Academy brings UAMS researchers and community members together for weekly sessions to increase the community participants’ knowledge of the research process, to build relationships between TRI and the community, and to create a cadre of stakeholders who can influence UAMS’ research.

“We want our fellow Arkansans to understand what we do because their input makes a big difference in our efforts to improve health,” said Kate Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., who leads the TRI’s Community Engagement program.

TRI established the academy on the recommendation of members of its Community Advisory Board. The academy, which is free to the public, addresses misconceptions about research while confronting past unethical behavior of researchers with vulnerable populations.

The next Community Scientist Academy will be Sept. 25 through Oct. 30, 2018, Tuesdays,  5:30 – 7:30 p.m. For more information about this program and/or the upcoming academy, please contact Rachel Hale, 501-526-6628 or

August 07, 2018

Dr. Thomas Pearson, director of the CTSI Translational Workforce Development Program, invited Dr. Ericka Boone, director of the NIH Division of Loan Repayment, to speak at the 2018 CTSI Research Day, to help identify opportunities for scholars, faculty and trainees to fund research careers. Pictured left to right with Omar McCrimmon, Communications Specialist for the NIH Loan Repayment Programs. University of Florida
UF CTSI Research Day Features Scholars and Trainees, NIH Loan Repayment Official

University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Trainees, scholars and pilot award recipients presented their work at the University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Research Day recently and heard from an NIH official about how to alleviate a major barrier to research that’s never far from their thoughts: Student loans.

NIH Division of Loan Repayment Director Ericka Boone, PhD, wants early-career researchers to know that the agency has $68 million to distribute every year, and that more people should apply for it.

“That’s $68 million up for grabs,” she told the crowd at the June 19 event. “You can get your loans repaid if you do research that is considered to be mission-critical for the NIH.”

Boone met with Loan Repayment Program Ambassadors from UF, and had lunch with TL1 Trainees, predoctoral students interested in translational research careers, and KL2 Scholars, junior faculty, who presented at Research Day. CTSI Translational Workforce Development Program trainees and scholars presented 18 posters: five TL1 trainees, five TL1 teams, five KL2 scholars, one non-TL1 CTS PhD student, and two faculty members in the Training and Research Academy for Clinical and Translational Science (TRACTS) program. Thirteen additional posters illustrated research supported by CTSI pilot project awards.

August 03, 2018

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