$71M NIH grant to advance clinical, translational science


Traditionally, the timeline for translating research into effective disease therapies has been long. On average, it takes more than 10 years to bring a potential medication to market, and most drugs and other interventions that reach clinical trials fail to produce any benefit for patients.

To address this challenge, the National Center for Advancing Translational Science, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research a new seven-year, $71 million Clinical and Translational Science Award.

The grant continues the University of Michigan’s 16-year participation in the CTSA Program, a national network of medical research institutions working together to improve the process of translational research to deliver more treatments to more patients more quickly.

“U-M is dedicated to putting this NIH award toward the advancement of research to improve the lives of humankind,” said Marschall S. Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine.

 “With this support, our researchers will continue to search for ways to broaden the impact of translational and clinical research by working together to address the biggest health issues facing us all.”

NCATS has called upon participating institutions to make translational and clinical research more efficient and effective.

“With more than 60 CTSA hubs nationally, MICHR is privileged to be among the first awardees to address this new charge from NIH,” said MICHR Executive Director Julie Lumeng, associate vice president for research – clinical and human subjects research, and associate dean for research at the Medical School.

“This award will position MICHR to lead the way in building the field of translational science, with the intent of extending life and reducing the impact of illness and disability,” said Lumeng, who also is the Thomas P. Borders Family Research Professor of Child Behavior and Development and professor of pediatrics in the Medical School; and professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Public Health.

Historically, the CTSA program focused on helping research institutions build the necessary infrastructure to catalyze and support clinical and translational research at universities and other institutions around the nation. As a result, foundational elements to support clinical and translational research, such as data sharing and research training, have matured nationally and at U-M.

NIH is now charging the funded CTSAs with examining and improving the systems within translational research — taking a look at the science of translational science —including identifying barriers to bringing therapies to practice and developing evidence-based solutions to address them.

“Similar to how researchers study the systems of an assembly line to improve efficiencies, our colleagues at MICHR will play a critical role in studying the process of translational research so that our teams can effectively and efficiently catalyze innovative research and discoveries for broad societal impact,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research, and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

MICHR will use the grant to develop and demonstrate scientific and operational innovations in the translational process, shortening the time to develop and deliver new treatments, and then share these solutions nationally.

For example, MICHR will catalyze translational science with a high degree of potential for direct patient impact by establishing a new Behavioral Research Innovation and Support Program.

A large proportion of extramural research grants to U-M involve basic and applied studies of human behavior. The Behavioral Research Innovation and Support Program will optimize support for behavioral research by providing the latest training, guidance and resources to improve the efficacy of this work. It will be led by Susan Murphy, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and of internal medicine, and research professor at the Institute of Gerontology in the Medical School.

MICHR’s Interdisciplinary Research and Team Science Program will address the government’s call to foster team science by creating novel evidence-based interventions that build and sustain high-functioning research teams to tackle complex problems in health research.

In addition, MICHR will cultivate community-engaged research by extending partnerships statewide and developing a new Patient Partner Academy, led by patient adviser Greg Merritt, to elevate patients’ voices locally and nationally in all stages of the research process.

“MICHR has 16 years of experience in facilitating translational research. Going forward, we will use that experience to grow a community of translational scientists contributing to the national goal of accelerating the realization of interventions that improve human health.” said Erica Marsh, MICHR associate director.

“MICHR is guided by a collaborative and inclusive approach and is especially committed to centering patients and communities in this work. We will strive to address health disparities and deliver the benefits of translational science across Michigan and beyond,” said Marsh, who also is a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, the S. Jan Behrman Collegiate Professor of Reproductive Medicine, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Medical School; and professor of women’s and gender studies in LSA.

MICHR’s renewed focus on advancing translational science aligns with President Santa J. Ono’s new strategy to amplify research and scholarship.


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