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Major grant advances UW's clinical and translational research enterprise

MADISON -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the University of Wisconsin-Madison's new Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) one of the largest grants in the history of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, making UW-Madison a key player in an ambitious NIH plan to transform the country's clinical and translational research enterprise.

The primary goal of the plan is to find ways to do a better job of moving biomedical and health sciences discoveries into practical use in health care providers' offices, clinics and hospitals, where the new knowledge can be used most rapidly and effectively to improve peoples' health.

With $41 million over five years, ICTR will aggressively address clinical and translational research in Wisconsin by first building a network of key partners from across campus and around the state. Representatives of the four UW-Madison health sciences schools (medicine and public health, nursing, pharmacy and veterinary medicine) and the College of Engineering are integrally involved, along with the Marshfield Clinic.

With an infrastructure in place, the institute will expand training programs and coordinate an array of resources and services for both new and established investigators. Input from public health departments and community health offices throughout Wisconsin will be essential to ensuring that the research is relevant and reaches people and areas with the greatest needs.

"When you combine UW-Madison's world-class strengths in both the basic and clinical sciences, its developing strength in public health and the collaborations it has nurtured with health care and public health institutions around the state, it makes complete sense that the university would be chosen to be involved in this transformative national initiative," says UW-Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley. "The opening of our Wisconsin Institute of Discovery and Interdisciplinary Research Complex in the near future will further enhance our capabilities."

The institute will produce scientists trained in interdisciplinary research who understand the challenges and complexities of moving fundamental laboratory discoveries through clinical trials in patients to health studies in communities.

"Scientists have shown that taking an aspirin a day can reduce a person's risk of heart attacks, yet only about 60 percent of the people who could benefit use aspirin," explains institute Director Marc Drezner, professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical and translational research at the School of Medicine and Public Health. "Many complicated factors contribute to this breakdown in the translation of fundamental knowledge, and we have set up an expansive plan and structure to ameliorate the problem."

Type one translational research involves the transfer of basic laboratory science to controlled clinical trials, adds Drezner, while type two translational research involves community- and population-based studies that facilitate the transfer of discoveries from those clinical trials to the real world, where things are much less controlled.

"By concentrating on the latter, we hope to identify better ways to rapidly get new interventions to a greater proportion of the people who so badly need them," Drezner says.

To ensure that research responds to local health care needs statewide, ICTR will enhance clinical research networks such as the Wisconsin Network for Health Research, a collaboration between the four largest health care systems in the state that will provide opportunities for networked research throughout the state and will afford consumers and health care providers in Wisconsin access to all kinds of health and medical information. Existing community-based networks that examine single health problems-such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease-will also participate in network research activities.

"Such networks offer great potential for us to affirm research results in community-based settings," Drezner says. In addition to developing scientists' careers by continuing to provide and expand interdisciplinary training programs and creating new ones, ICTR will build a core group of biostatisticians and medical informatics experts to aid in study design, and data analysis and management.

Type one translational research will also be enhanced with the conversion of the UW General Clinical Research Center into the Clinical and Translational Research Core (CTRC). Staffed by specially trained research nurses, the CTRC will consist of the UW Hospital and Clinics' central unit as well as satellite units throughout the hospital and, in the future, at other Wisconsin hospitals and clinics.

With funding from the Wisconsin Partnership Program and other sources, ICTR was created last winter in response to the NIH "Roadmap for Medical Research," which calls for the establishment of academic homes for clinical and translational research.

In keeping with the "roadmap," the NIH began a Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program in 2006. Twelve academic medical centers received the first round of CTSA grants; UW-Madison is among the 12 institutions that have received grants in the second highly competitive round.


Contact: Dian Land
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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