CTSI accomplishments and landmark research featured at annual forum

CTSI Annual Forum, full room.

Published April 3, 2019

The year 2018 was one of expansion and growth for the University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, according to CTSI director Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Murphy spoke to a standing room only audience of faculty and staff at the CTSI’s Annual Forum on March 20 at the Clinical and Translational Research Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Murphy and other presenters noted that community support and collaboration are key to the Institute’s progress, and must continue to be emphasized as it moves forward with a wide-ranging five-year plan.

Michael Cain, MD, VP for Health Sciences at UB and Dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, gave the welcoming comments at the forum. Cain recognized the CTSI for “outstanding accomplishments made over the short period of time” since it received funding in 2015. He attributed the Institute’s progress to the “tremendous collaborative work” between the staff, participating researchers and the region’s medical community.

David Hughes, MD, Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer at Kaleida Health, echoed Cain. He said Kaleida is a “strong proponent” of its partnership with the CTSI, and said he foresees the CTSI making an “incredible” impact going forward. Through its collaborations, he said, the CTSI is making significant progress in providing innovative care to the region’s underrepresented population.

During his “State of the CTSI” presentation, Murphy discussed the outcomes of recent efforts and outlined new initiatives designed to build on recent successes.

Murphy said that recruiting participants to clinical trials has been a major focus of the CTSI and will continue to be significant in the future. Noting that, nationally, 75 percent of research trials fail because they don’t meet recruitment goals, he underscored the importance of finding new ways to connect with potential research participants.

One recruitment tool the CTSI has developed is a local registry of candidates, which has already gathered 1,300 names. This registry will be used to help researchers meet their participation goals, Murphy said. In addition, he noted that the CTSI is developing partnerships with the region’s emergency departments to recruit participants to the local registry.

The CTSI director said that over the next five years the Institute will host “community engagement studios,” which will bring in members of the community to talk to researchers and provide feedback on how more effective studies can be designed.

The CTSI will also provide $5,000 grants to help fund community-based participatory research pilot studies in the coming years.

The CTSI is also developing a work group to engage Buffalo’s refugee population, which makes up a large part of the community’s population with health disparities.

And the Institute will continue to build partnerships with community organizations to increase awareness of and participation in the Institute’s activities. One such partnership is with the African American Health Disparities Task Force, a group run by area pastors. Murphy called this relationship a “high-value, exciting partnership.”

Murphy said that the CTSI is mindful about tailoring recruitment materials to the elderly population, which will continue to grow in coming years.

Other recruitment tools the CTSI is working on include a smartphone app, a partnership with HEALTHeLINK on recruitment, and the development of a point-of-care alert to patients about available ongoing research trials.

Murphy also stated that the CTSI has become more prominent on the national stage.

For example, he said, an interactive coloring and activity book created by a local research team with the aim of educating children about the importance of research has gained national attention, and could become a part of the welcome packet at the National Institute of Health Clinical Center. It has been translated into Arabic and Spanish, and an online version is in the works.

Murphy also spoke about the success of a recent online Creative Scientist Workshop on team science put on by the CTSI that attracted 81 researchers from around the country.

The key to continued success, Murphy said, is to continue to make valuable connections and building collaborations with other research hubs.

The forum’s keynote speaker was Barry Willer, PhD, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Jacobs School, whose address was titled “Publishing a landmark study on concussion: It takes a village.”

Willer and his co-principal investigator, John Leddy, MD, have become nationally known for their work in the treatment of traumatic brain injury in young athletes. Their groundbreaking research has led to a widespread shift in the standard of care for patients with concussions.

Prior to their research, patients with concussions were told to rest until they no longer showed symptoms. Willer and Leddy’s work, which was published in the JAMA Pediatrics, proved that there is a clear advantage to encouraging these patients to engage in exercise under careful guidance. Read more about the landmark concussion study.

Their research would not have happened without the CTSI, Willer said. “Children need a village to grow and succeed. Similarly, the CTSI is creating a village for researchers,” he said.