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HSC and partners receive $22.7 million CTSA award

Posted on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 21


Announcing the UT Health Science Center’s new $22.7 million Clinical and Translational Science Award are (left to right) David S. Weiss, Ph.D., Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., and Robert A. Clark, M.D.
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Announcing the UT Health Science Center’s new $22.7 million Clinical and Translational Science Award are (left to right) David S. Weiss, Ph.D., Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., and Robert A. Clark, M.D. clear graphic

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Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 8, 2013) — The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and 11 South Texas partners received word Oct. 8 that they earned a $22.7 million federal grant to speed research discoveries from laboratory concepts to practical applications benefiting patient care and public health.

Clinical and Translational Science Award
The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, a component of the National Institutes of Health, announced the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) to the Health Science Center and a consortium of South Texas partner institutions. CTSA programs improve the health status of communities by accelerating scientific discoveries and public health applications, fostering team science, and expanding and diversifying the workforce of translational biomedical scientists.

The award is for five years through 2018 and follows a just-concluded CTSA that began in 2008. The Health Science Center is one of 61 top U.S. medical centers with the CTSA designation.

Top bioscience city
“I am very proud of the efforts of UT Health Science Center faculty and staff and of all of our CTSA partners in conducting a program of this caliber and magnitude, which by translating scientific research to practical applications is making lives better in our region’s communities,” said William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of the Health Science Center. “In San Antonio’s continuing drive to become one of the country’s top bioscience cities, sustaining and enhancing our CTSA designation is an essential element.”

Improving health in South Texas
The CTSA is administered through the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS) established at the Health Science Center in 2006. The IIMS focuses on prevalent challenges in South Texas, including the health needs of an underserved Hispanic population, health issues facing active-duty military and veteran populations, and limitations in the translational science workforce. IIMS has expanded clinical research units from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley, increased the number of practice-based research networks that focus on diverse patient populations, and established new joint translational science doctoral and certificate programs.

Moving new drugs and technologies into practice
“A prominent theme of our new award is how to address the health disparities that are so prevalent in our region,” said IIMS Director Robert A. Clark, M.D., MACP, assistant vice president for clinical research and professor in the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center. “We are also investing in several new inter-institutional entities, including the Center for Innovation in Drug Discovery and the Core for Advanced Translational Technologies, both of which hold promise for advancing potential therapeutics discovered at the lab bench along the path to clinical trials and then to use in the public.”

Academic education and career development
Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs, said: “The CTSA’s focus on educational and career development is helping to build San Antonio as a bioscience city by training researchers who will work not in silos but across disciplines to translate science.” The majority of CTSA funding supports activities within the School of Medicine.

Practice-based research networks
IIMS is fostering community engagement in collaboration with multiple partners, including South Texas physicians through practice-based research networks. In this CTSA program, physicians in offices and clinics leverage academic resources to solve real-world research questions. The five networks supported by CTSA resources in clinical areas that include primary care, mental health and dental/oral health represent a key feature of the community engagement initiatives.

Pilot projects
“Another important area of our CTSA is the pilot project program, which has grown significantly since 2008 through partnerships developed between IIMS and the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center, The University of Texas at San Antonio, the San Antonio Vaccine Center, the Center for Biological Neuroscience at the Health Science Center, and others,” said David S. Weiss, Ph.D., vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Health Science Center. “We have been able to leverage our pilot project resources with these entities to advance new initiatives to the point of being competitive for outside grant support, as reflected by a remarkable return on investment of 15 to 1.”

Bioinformatics, biostatics and study design support for researchers
IIMS offers a range of support services to investigators in bioinformatics, biostatistics, study design and more, and has expanded the venues available for conducting human clinical research studies from one when the first CTSA was received to six today. This includes a pediatric unit in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley’s pioneering unit at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.

Christopher Frei, Ph.D., (right) explains how the previous CTSA grant, awarded in 2008, helped him jump-start his research career and obtain three extramural research grants. On the left are Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., (seated) and Robert A. Clark, M.D.
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Christopher Frei, Ph.D., (right) explains how the previous CTSA grant, awarded in 2008, helped him jump-start his research career and obtain three extramural research grants. On the left are Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., (seated) and Robert A. Clark, M.D. clear graphic

 

CTSA in action
During the press conference Oct. 8 announcing the CTSA grant, reporters asked for an example of how the CTSA can help further translational research. Dr. Clark asked Christopher Frei, Pharm.D., M.S., associate professor and director of the Pharmacotherapy Education and Research Center, to discuss how he benefitted from the previous CTSA grant awarded in 2008.

Dr. Frei explained that two CTSA programs (the pilot grant program and KL2 career development program) and three CTSA partners (UT Austin College of Pharmacy, the Practice-Based Research Network Center and the Area Health Education Center) helped him jump-start his research career and obtain three extramural research grants. He also praised the new Translational Science Ph.D. program. Three of his graduate students are now enrolled in the program.

Team effort
The Health Science Center’s application competed against 28 others for the coveted award and ranked in the top 10 applications received, Dr. Clark said. He thanked the many faculty and staff who worked on the grant submission, including the other three IIMS co-principal investigators:
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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 National Institutes of Health funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 29,000 graduates. The $765.2 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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