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UT-Houston Medicine Magazine

Advancing Medicine through Clinical Research (continued)

By Camille Webb

Mission grows with new NIH ‘think tank'

Strengthening this part of the Medical School's mission, the new Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS) will help to expand the school's clinical research activities. The center is funded by a five-year, $36 million National Institutes of Health grant with the goal of expediting the time it takes between the development of new treatments and their delivery to sick patients.

To be headquartered on the eighth-floor of the Medical School Building, the CCTS is a joint venture between The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The institutions also will collaborate on projects with Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, which is a primary clinical partner in supporting the center. Additionally, collaborative studies will extend to the Lower Rio Grande Valley at The University of Texas School of Public Health's Brownsville Regional Campus.

Moving research findings forward to better serve patients is reflected in the aim of the center. "It is meant to improve the nation's health," says Frank Arnett Jr., M.D., director of the CCTS and professor of internal medicine at the Medical School. "This new program was created to advance the speed and sophistication of basic science findings to the patient care arena."

Part of the way the CCTS aims to achieve its goal is to increase collaboration among scientists, clinicians, and investigations. Researchers at the center will be among the nation's most collaborative, sharing information each day among themselves and with their colleagues – even across the boundaries of laboratory and clinical disciplines.

bandage"If we could create an environment within the school where basic scientists spoke to clinicians, where the trainees were exposed to the more senior, well-developed investigators, where the community could bring their concerns and questions, and where we could take the results of clinical and basic science research into the community – all these opportunities for translation and implementation could take place in a much more efficient way," says Dr. Okhuysen, co-director of the CCTS. "All those things would be taken care of with this center, and that's what the CCTS is going to do."

Investigators at the center know that collaboration is the key to driving scientific findings and their translation to human health and disease forward.

"A single group of investigators cannot, on their own, advance clinical research at the pace that technology and health care demand," says Dr. Arnett, who also holds the Elizabeth Bidgood Chair in Rheumatology. "The rapid development of novel technologies, complexity of science, and regulatory and ethical issues requires multidisciplinary teams that can move research forward in a coordinated and efficient manner."

Part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program is administered by the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the NIH. The aims of the CTSA program are to encourage the development of novel methods and approaches to clinical and translational research, enhance informatics and technology resources, and improve training and mentoring of new investigators.

medical"The CCTS will assemble a think tank of highly accomplished translational and clinical investigators, basic scientists, educators, and community representatives who will be our ‘engine for innovation' to bring forward and recommend the application of novel and emerging scientific information, methods, and technologies to research and education regarding human health and diseases across specialties, disciplines, and communities," Dr. Arnett says.

Programs at the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences will include integrated clinical research units; biomarker-driven research trials; core laboratories in genetics, genomics, proteomics, immunology, and imaging methodologies; bioinformatics; and career development training for junior investigators.

"The CCTS will provide a home for clinical and translational research and serve as an engine of innovation for thought leaders and a safe haven for committed mentors, students, and trainees," Dr. Arnett says. As one of only 12 academic medical centers in the country to win a CTSA award this year, the health science center has primed itself to be one of the nation's leaders in clinical research.

"The development of this consortium represents the first systematic change in our approach to clinical research in 50 years," says NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. "Working together, these sites will serve as discovery engines that will improve medical care by applying new scientific advances to real world practice. We expect to see new approaches reach underserved populations, local community organizations, and health care providers to ensure that medical advances are reaching the people who need them."

The new center is expected to be complete within the next year. It will represent an expansion of the Medical School's University Clinical Research Center and the Center for Clinical Research and Evidence- Based Medicine. Co-directors, in addition to Dr. Okhuysen, include Dr. Tyson and Razelle Kurzrock, M.D., professor of medicine at M. D. Anderson.

clinicalUltimately, the new Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences will cultivate innovative research into human diseases, transform discoveries into effective new therapies, and bring results to the community and patients.

Together, these three clinical research centers – the University Clinical Research Center, the Center for Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Medicine, and the new Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences – will move forward the Medical School's vision and growth of clinical research through discovery, development, and delivery of results.


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