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Translational science research day sparks networking

Posted on Friday, February 24, 2012 · Volume: XLV · Issue: 4

The invited guest speaker, Bruce M. McManus, M.D., Ph.D., FRSC, FCAHS, presented “Molecular Bio Signatures along the Life Cycle of Failing Hearts and Lungs.”
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The invited guest speaker, Bruce M. McManus, M.D., Ph.D., FRSC, FCAHS, presented “Molecular Bio Signatures along the Life Cycle of Failing Hearts and Lungs.”clear graphic

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Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579

SAN ANTONIO (Feb. 15, 2012) — Seventy-four translational research projects underwent the scrutiny of judges at the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS) Frontiers of Translational Science Research Day, held Feb. 15 at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. The theme of the day was biomarker development.

The annual research showcase is sponsored by the IIMS, the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center, the Research Centers in Minority Institutions program at The University of Texas at San Antonio and the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The morning’s poster-based format gave scientists the opportunity to answer questions about their work and make observations. At midday, a student, resident, clinical fellow, two postdoctoral research fellows and two faculty members gave oral presentations.
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“Research Day was a remarkable experience for many of our junior investigators,” said IIMS Director Robert A. Clark, M.D., assistant vice president for clinical research. “The opportunity to exhibit their work and discuss it with their peers, and especially with senior scientists, is so enriching and intellectually stimulating for them. Their excitement was obvious and I’m sure they will go back to work on their projects with new insights, as well as linkages that may lead to fruitful collaborations.”

From molecule to population
“The striking thing about all the presentations is the excellent science reaching from molecule to population — from looking for ways to intervene in basic mechanisms of disease to exploring ways to intervene in environmental, behavioral and biological factors at a community level,” said invited guest speaker and judge Bruce McManus, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. McManus is director of the Centre of Excellence for Prevention of Organ Failure (PROOF Centre), a translational science not-for-profit based at St. Paul’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. With its emphasis on improving lives through collaborative science, the PROOF Centre might be considered a Canadian equivalent of a CTSA.

People in CTSAs have dropped artificial boundaries — such as expertise, academic departments and buildings — in favor of working with others who have completely different knowledge bases, Dr. McManus said. “There is a growing sense of intellectual humility among scientists who are trying to ask or answer a question that is important,” he said. “If you have a tough question, the answer is probably very complex and it requires a real village of people with many different knowledge sets and experiences to answer it properly.”

Dr. McManus leads a multi-institutional, multisectoral effort to find blood-derived biosignatures that very accurately forecast development and progression of heart, lung and kidney failure. These signatures, some consisting of as few as 10 biomarkers, find true-positive results for these diseases (sensitivity) while excluding results that are not related or are false-positive (specificity). To be useful for better preventive and clinical care, the biosignatures are required to work equally well in ethnically, geographically and socioeconomically diverse groups of people.

Sophie E. Hussey, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Diabetes, discusses her poster.
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Sophie E. Hussey, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Diabetes, discusses her poster.clear graphic


The unexpected question that drives discovery
The IIMS Frontiers of Translational Science Research Day provides the venue needed for scientists to work together. “These kinds of days are often career makers,” Dr. McManus said. “Somebody asks an unexpected question that extends or exposes new directions for research, or someone offers reagents or a study cohort. Unforeseen friendships are spawned. These days are critical to young scientists.”

The CTSA grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health in 2008 to the Health Science Center and its partner organizations. The mission is to integrate clinical and translational research and career development across South Texas. This involves reducing barriers to research and stimulating the transformation of knowledge into improved health care for Texas residents.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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