The Community Knowledge Project led by UCI’s Michael Montoya, assistant professor of anthropology and Chicano/Latino studies, is one of many efforts supported by the Institute for Clinical & Translational Science that combine research advances and community involvement to improve human health. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

Forging a faster path from lab to clinic

UCI's Institute for Clinical & Translational Science will receive $20 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health to hasten the transformation of scientific discoveries into medical advances for patients.

A Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist works with pediatricians on ways to diagnose diseases like diabetes through exhaled breath. An orthopedics researcher uses a novel computer program to determine how zero gravity accelerates bone loss in astronauts. An anthropology and Chicano/Latino studies professor leads a Community Knowledge Project combining research with community action to address childhood obesity, diabetes, stress and overall health in Orange County’s poorest neighborhoods.

These studies – and hundreds of others like them – are conducted daily through UC Irvine’s Institute for Clinical & Translational Science, where multidisciplinary researchers aim to use scientific discovery to improve human health. And this collective enterprise has just gotten a significant boost in the form of a competitive Clinical & Translational Science Award.

UCI’s ICTS will receive $20 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health to hasten the transformation of scientific discoveries into medical advances for patients. The university joins a prestigious national consortium of 55 CTSA-winning medical research institutions, whose membership will be capped at 60 by 2012.

The sixth-largest grant in UCI history, the CTSA will foster ongoing and future multidisciplinary research involving the community in a wide range of fields — such as genetics, diabetes, gerontology, pediatrics, cancer and infectious diseases — while funding efforts to overcome impediments to biomedical innovation.

“With this award, UCI becomes one of a select group of institutions supported by the NIH to forge a new direction for clinical research in the U.S. for a generation to come,” says Dr. Dan Cooper, ICTS director and primary CTSA investigator. “The grant will jump-start our endeavors to build effective multidisciplinary research teams to tackle important health issues, and it will bolster attempts to involve our community in the excitement of clinical discovery as partners.”

Specifically, he says, the CTSA will facilitate:

  • Development of novel technologies, such as devices that can detect diseases like diabetes in exhaled breath.
  • Innovative pilot studies, such as one for the early identification of cerebral palsy in babies.
  • Successful navigation of regulatory barriers to clinical studies.
  • Research into biostatistics, study design and bioethics.
  • Vigorous efforts to involve community partners in a meaningful way with new research projects particularly relevant to Southern California residents.
  • Creation of outstanding research facilities and the hiring of research nursing and study coordinators for UCI translational scientists.
  • Training of the next generation of clinical scientists through certificate and master’s programs in clinical research.

“A critical goal of biomedical research is to transform discoveries into preventions, treatments and cures,” says NIH director Dr. Francis S. Collins. “By working together, CTSA institutions are removing barriers to research, training new generations of clinical and laboratory research teams, and providing them with the equipment and resources they need.”

Founded in 2006, the ICTS is the lynchpin of UCI’s clinical research efforts. Housed at UC Irvine Medical Center, it encompasses hundreds of studies by faculty and staff members.;

“Our expectation is that with the CTSA’s considerable support, the ICTS will generate new knowledge of immediate and long-term importance to the healthcare of people everywhere,” Cooper said. “The ICTS will inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals to focus on the possibilities of medicine and turn these ideas into reality.”

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