$50 million NIH grant will help bring new treatments to patients

As part of a national effort to translate basic science discoveries into treatments and cures for patients more quickly, the School of Medicine will lead a regional group of institutions under a new $50 million, five-year grant program that will greatly enhance clinical and translational research.

Kenneth Polonsky

“This grant creates a comprehensive approach that will benefit patients by bringing together basic research scientists and clinical researchers as well as health-care and commercial institutions in a coordinated system dedicated to improving patient care,” said program principal investigator Kenneth S. Polonsky, M.D., the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Milliken Department of Medicine.

The grant from the National Institutes of Health is one of 12 announced Sept. 18 and marks the second wave of funding through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, which aims to re-engineer the country’s clinical research enterprise. This regional consortium will be part of a nationwide network linked together through the CTSA, which includes 24 academic health centers, and when fully implemented in 2012, will include 60 institutions.

The Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS) created by the grant is a collaboration among several regional institutions including: Washington University; BJC HealthCare; Saint Louis University School of Public Health, Doisy College of Health Sciences and Center for Health Care Ethics; the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Nursing; Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville School of Nursing; St. Louis College of Pharmacy and others.

“The ICTS will radically improve clinical studies at our institutions,” Polonsky said. “The program will allow investigators to collaborate more easily across departmental and institutional boundaries and take full advantage of local and regional resources. These broad-based interactions are unprecedented and in time will transform the way in which clinical research and training is conducted.”

At present, investigators who want to conduct studies in humans must navigate through a complex maze of resources and regulatory requirements, Polonsky said.

The ICTS will enable investigators to perform clinical studies efficiently while maintaining the highest standards for the safe and ethical conduct of research in humans.

The ICTS will promote the development of research teams consisting of scientists with related interests.

Faculty from each collaborating institution will have access to the resources of the ICTS, and students and trainees from each collaborating institution will be able to participate in ICTS training programs to enhance the quality of clinical research in the St. Louis region.

The ICTS also will foster collaborative research partnerships between academic institutions and community-based health providers, other community organizations and the community at large, thereby leading to improvements in the health of our community.

The consortium will set up mechanisms to commercialize scientific discoveries and create partnerships with private and public health-care organizations, including pharmaceutical companies and business incubators to turn basic scientific advances into products as rapidly as possible.

The ICTS complements Washington University’s BioMed 21 initiative, a strategic program begun in 2003 to facilitate multidisciplinary, collaborative research and rapidly apply breakthroughs to patient care.