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Vanderbilt’s CTSA lands $46 million renewal

Jul. 12, 2012, 9:43 AM

Clinical and translational research at Vanderbilt will be funded over the next five years, thanks to a $46 million renewal grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. (Mary Donaldson/Vanderbilt)
Clinical and translational research at Vanderbilt will be funded over the next five years, thanks to a $46 million renewal grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. (Mary Donaldson/Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt University’s largest single government research grant, its Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), has been renewed for another five years for $46 million.

Vanderbilt officials said the grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will continue to help its researchers “propel discoveries and ideas without delay … into clinical practice.”

Gordon Bernard (Steve Green/Vanderbilt)
Gordon Bernard, M.D. (Steve Green/Vanderbilt)

“The CTSA program has been a national experiment to improve the pace and efficiency of clinical and translational research across the country,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Clinical Sciences. “We believe it has been successful.”

Bernard is program director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR), which administers the CTSA. Since the initial award in 2007, VICTR has built an efficient framework for conducting biomedical research in partnership with Nashville’s Meharry Medical College.

To date VICTR has distributed nearly 1,100 “vouchers” (up to $2,000 each) to Vanderbilt and Meharry investigators to jumpstart their projects. The return on investment is impressive: the projects have led to 198 new NIH grants and 340 scientific publications.

Last year more than 600 Vanderbilt and Meharry researchers used VICTR services, many of them by logging onto StarBRITE, an online research portal that launched in 2007.

One popular service is the “Studio,” an interactive roundtable discussion that brings together relevant experts from diverse academic disciplines to help researchers refine their hypotheses, design and implement their studies, obtain funding and get their results published.

According to Daniel Byrne, first author of a review published online this month in the journal Academic Medicine, feedback from 157 Studios conducted between 2007 and 2010 was “overwhelmingly positive.”

A major resource is Vanderbilt’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (formerly the Clinical Research Center), which has supported nearly 550 research protocols in the past four years.

David Robertson, M.D. (Dana Johnson/Vanderbilt)
David Robertson, M.D. (Dana Johnson/Vanderbilt)

The center is directed by VICTR program co-director David Robertson, M.D., an internationally known expert on rare diseases of the autonomic nervous system. Robertson is principal investigator of the Autonomic Rare Disease Consortium, which hosts studies of 12 different diseases by researchers across the country.

The Vanderbilt-Meharry Community Engaged Research Core, another part of VICTR, partners with government, academic and community groups to improve the overall health of the population. With the Tennessee Department of Health, it helped develop the State Health Report Card program, which issues “report cards” on the health of Tennessee men and women every year.

The core is chaired by Charles Mouton, M.D., M.S., dean of the Meharry School of Medicine. Co-chairs are Margaret Hargreaves, Ph.D., and Paul Juarez, Ph.D., from Meharry, and Velma McBride Murry, Ph.D., and Russell Rothman, M.D., MPP, from Vanderbilt.

VICTR co-program director Robert Dittus, M.D., MPH, oversees the core and is responsible for marshalling the resources necessary to translate clinical discoveries into practice. Dittus is associate vice chancellor for Public Health and Health Care and directs the Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health.

One of VICTR’s major achievements is “ResearchMatch,” a national volunteer recruitment registry that helps people who want to participate in clinical studies connect with researchers throughout the country.

Since the Vanderbilt-hosted registry was launched in 2009, 25,000 potential volunteers have enrolled through the national ResearchMatch website, Roughly 3,900 volunteers have participated in one or more studies at 72 different institutions.

Junzhong Xu, Ph.D. (top right), postdoctoral fellow in Radiology & Radiological Sciences, attends a grant writing studio with faculty experts (from left) Anuradha Chakravarthy, M.D. (Radiation Oncology), Daniel Liebler, Ph.D. (Biochemistry), moderator Daniel Byrne (Biostatistics) and Hakmook Kang, Ph.D. (Biostatistics). (photo by Emily Sheffer)

REDCap is a Web-based application for building and managing online databases hosted by VICTR that has an international impact. Developed by Paul Harris, Ph.D., and his team in the Office of Research Informatics and launched in 2004, it currently serves more than 54,000 researchers in 47 countries.

Harris’ team also was critical to the development of StarBRITE and ResearchMatch. Jill Pulley, MBA, and her team in Research Support Services play an equally important role in administering these and other VICTR initiatives.

Finally, VICTR has aided Vanderbilt’s emergence as a major player in personalized medicine through its contributions to BioVU, the medical center’s DNA databank.

BioVU enables researchers to study, at a level not possible before, the role that genes play in health and disease. During the next five years, VICTR will support expansion of BioVU to include collection, processing and storage of plasma for biomarker studies and collection of mitochondrial DNA.

Leadership of the VICTR grant (2UL1TR000445) also includes:

  • Leonard Bickman, Ph.D., co-program director for Evaluation; director of the Center for Evaluation and Program Improvement at Peabody College;
  • Frank Harrell, Ph.D., co-program director for Design, Biostatistics and Research Ethics; chair of the Department of Biostatistics;
  • Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., key function director for Education, Training and Career Development; associate dean for Clinical & Translational Scientist Development;
  • Kevin Johnson, M.D., M.S., co-program director; chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics;
  • Russell Poland, Ph.D., co-program director for the Meharry-Vanderbilt Focused Partnership on Eliminating Health Disparities; vice president for Research at Meharry.
Media contact: Ashley Culver, (615) 322-4747

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