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UMass Medical School granted five-year, $30 million Clinical and Translational Sciences Award

The UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science spurs innovation and collaboration

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

August 21, 2020
 
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Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, is principal investigator for the grant
and director of the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

UMass Medical School will bring the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science to its next level of innovation and collaboration with the five-year, $30 million renewal of its Clinical and Translational Sciences Award from the National Institutes of Health. The center advances clinical and translational research through education and training, pilot funding programs, research cores, and services.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve health and health care delivery,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, the UMass Memorial Health Care Chair in Biomedical Research; vice provost for clinical and translational research; professor of molecular medicine, pediatrics and medicine; principal investigator for the grant and director of the center. “We do that by catalyzing new ways of doing translational science, facilitating trans-disciplinary team formation, supporting teams in their work through provision of services and funding, and educating the next generation of translational researchers.”

UMMS became a member of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences consortium with its first CTSA grant a decade ago. The consortium brings together 68 biomedical research institutions to develop innovations to reduce, remove or bypass costly and time-consuming bottlenecks in the translational research pipeline to speed the delivery of new drugs, diagnostics and medical devices to patients.

Supported by the grant and institutional resources, the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science engages a broad range of community agencies, patient groups, foundations, industry and the national CTSA network to foster engagement and collaboration, and promotes collaborative problem-solving to address significant health needs.

“By engaging investigators with diverse expertise, trans-disciplinary collaborations have high potential for innovation and developing new approaches,” said Dr. Luzuriaga. “It’s been gratifying to see the incredible growth in collaborative clinical and translational research across the medical school and the other four UMass campuses.”

Examples of initiatives that have received CCTS support include: the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, also home to the Center for Advancing Point-of-Care Technologies (CAPCaT) for Heart, Lung, Blood and Sleep Disorders, directed by David McManus, MD, professor of medicine, and Bryan Buchholz, PhD, chair and professor of engineering at UMass Lowell; the UMass Center for Microbiome Research, led by Beth McCormick, PhD, the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems; the Community Engagement and Collaboration Core led by Stephenie Lemon, PhD, professor of population & quantitative health sciences; and the Science Participation Research Center, led by Jeroan Allison, MD, chair and professor of population & quantitative health sciences. Most recently, based on the track record of CAPCaT, the National Institutes of Health awarded the Medical School grants totaling more than $100 million to coordinate Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, or RADx, a nationwide push for fast, accessible COVID-19 testing.

New projects will be launched, including the creation of an integrated biomarkers research core led by Jane Freedman, MD, the Edward Budnitz, MD, Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine and professor of medicine, to look at potential biomarkers for disease and develop point-of-care devices to screen for them. An enhanced bioinformatics core led by Manuel Garber, PhD, associate professor of molecular medicine and core co-director in the Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology, will build on platforms created over the past five years.

The training programs will continue under the direction of Diane McKee, MD, chair and professor of family medicine & community health; Catarina Kiefe, MD, PhD, the Melvin S. and Sandra L. Cutler Chair in Biomedical Research and professor of population & quantitative health sciences; and Kate Lapane, PhD, professor of population & quantitative health sciences.

“One of the most important things we do is build and support a robust translational workforce, an area where we’ve been particularly successful,” Luzuriaga said. “One of the key things that we’re really proud of is that several of our trainees are now highly productive investigators and serve as mentors and role models for translational scientists-in-training.”

Related stories on UMassMed News:
UMass Medical School receives $100 million in NIH grants to lead push for fast, accessible COVID-19 tests
UMass Medical School Adopts Accelerated Clinical Trial Agreement
Clinical and translational science award renewed