CTSA to energize innovation at College of Medicine

As a recipient of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award, the University of Florida joins an elite group of medical research institutions working together to improve the way biomedical research is conducted nationwide.

Below, Dr. Michael Good, interim dean of the College of Medicine, describes the COM’s commitment to the university-wide Clinical Translational and Science Institute, which will coordinate the grant and provide the infrastructure to support multidisciplinary research and clinical trials. Stephen P. Sugrue, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research affairs for the College of Medicine, explains how the CTSA will impact medical research at UF, and Dr. Tetsuo Ashizawa, chairman of the department of neurology, provides perspective from a researcher and offers an example of how the new grant will help propel neurological discoveries.

Michael Good, M.D.

The $26 million CTSA grant is a natural extension of the explosive growth of clinical and translational research under way at the College of Medicine. Dr. Peter Stacpoole, principal investigator, and the leadership team at the CTSI did an extraordinary job in the application process and deserve congratulations for this great accomplishment.

Michael L. Good, M.D., Interim Dean, College of Medicine

Michael L. Good, M.D., Interim Dean, College of Medicine

Although the College of Medicine has a strong history of productive collaborations among several UF colleges, centers, institutes and our partnering hospitals, the CTSI infrastructure will make it much easier for faculty to carry out clinical and translational trials and to transfer discoveries made in the lab into the clinical environment, so that findings will benefit patients sooner. What is most exciting is that the CTSA grant will help us attract and retain talented faculty members and improve our ability to collaborate with fewer barriers and headaches.

The College of Medicine is committed to providing resources to this effort. In fact, the College will invest approximately $70 million over the next five to seven years to advance clinical and translational research. A large portion of those funds will support the implementation of the Epic electronic medical record system for the College’s Faculty Group Practice. The College also plans to pursue new programs in biomedical informatics as part of the CTSA. The intent is to grow this new division (and later department) that will focus on the education and training of health-care professionals needed in the future. The academic unit will train master’s and Ph.D. students and attract faculty to conduct research in informatics.

Stephen P. Sugrue, Ph.D.

Stephen P. Sugrue, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean for Research Affairs, College of Medicine

Stephen P. Sugrue, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean for Research Affairs, College of Medicine

Receipt of the CTSA isn’t just about the dollar amount of the award. It is about specific funding mechanisms that now are available to our College of Medicine researchers.

Receiving this award is a declaration by the NIH that we have organizational focus in place and a standard of care for translational and clinical research, including clinical trials. It also means that the people who will conduct the clinical-based research will be trained in a context where the research will be maximized. In turn, we are promising the community that we will monitor and train at a very high standard. Clinical and translational science validates the bench-to-bedside process and enables the research to go to the next level: to launch programmatic research that is focused on human diseases.

Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D.

I was involved with CTSA preparations at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. I congratulate Dr. Stacpoole for his work that led us to this announcement.

Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology

Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, College of Medicine

This CTSA funding will be useful for significantly alleviating a hindrance known as the “valley of death,” a pre-clinical drug development process in which 80 to 90 percent of drugs fail. Often times, when basic science comes out with a product, it “dies” due to the complications involved with optimizing the lead product and passing the product through regulatory agencies for approval before making it to the clinical setting. This award will improve the completion of this process – from discovery to implementation.

In terms of neurological discoveries, this award opens up the ability to collaborate with other disciplines at UF, which will lead to better treatment and potential cures for diseases. For example, adult stem cell research, molecular therapy and plasticity-based neuro-rehabilitation will be important for restorative neurology. Until now, treatments have never been available for many neurological disorders – similar to that of cancer years ago. Restorative neurology will be possible through this collaboration and will become the next decade’s major progress in treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s and stroke.