The stage is set for some important medical advances at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC). These advances will be a natural result of the region’s greatest strengths in medical research and patient care, says Timothy F. Murphy, director of the CTRC and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The UB CTRC is scheduled to open in the fall and the Kaleida Health portion of the building, the Gates Vascular Institute (GVI), will open this spring. Construction of UB's new medical school building is scheduled to begin in 2012 on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The UB CTRC will be an invaluable research facility for UB physicians, researchers and medical students.
In the following Q&A, Murphy defines clinical and translational research and explains why it will produce dividends for both the quality of health care in Buffalo and the local economy.
What exactly is the UB Clinical and Translational Research Center?
The UB-owned and operated CTRC is a 170,000-square-foot research facility on the top four floors of the joint UB-Kaleida Health building now under construction at Goodrich and Ellicott streets on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The CTRC will be dedicated to clinical and translational research. It will feature:
- modern, open-architecture laboratories for up to 31 principal investigators
- a Clinical Research Center with eight examination rooms and an adjacent bio-repository that will allow researchers to collect, store and catalog valuable tissue samples to study a wide variety of disease conditions
- state-of the-art research imaging facilities, including magnetic resonance imaging, computing tomography and positron emission tomography
- the UB Biosciences Incubator that will aid UB researchers in creating medical products and businesses spun off from UB faculty research
- administrative offices for a Buffalo CTRC consortium led by Murphy, the Clinical and Translational Research Training Office and the UB Community Engagement Office
What is clinical and translational research?
Clinical research involves any studies of diseases and treatments that take place in human subjects. Translational research is the field that strives to expedite medical breakthroughs from bench to bedside; the field was established to overcome the barrier that exists between basic scientific discoveries made in the lab and the clinical care that patients receive. Clinical and translational research put an emphasis on collaborative teams of investigators who have diverse disciplines and tackle complex health and research challenges. The goal is to expedite creation of new medical tests, treatments and cures—propelling them from the laboratory to the physicians and their patients who need them.
What is happening nationally in the field?
Clinical and translational research is a major national priority. In December, the National Institutes of Health established the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. UB’s decision several years ago to invest resources to grow clinical and translational research was remarkably forward-looking and demonstrates a tremendous institutional commitment to this new, innovative field. Our success will help UB rise in the ranks not only of biomedical research, but among leading universities nationwide.
What is the purpose of the CTRC?
The purpose of the CTRC is to serve as an integrated academic home for outstanding clinical and translational science, and as the hub of the Buffalo Translational Consortium, providing innovative research tools, support, training, resources and coordination.
The CTRC will transform the environment for clinical and translational science in the Western New York region by:
- creating a collaborative research environment to reduce barriers between academic disciplines and between institutions to facilitate exceptional clinical and translational research that maximizes use of resources and reduces redundancy
- promoting the effective use, re-use, sharing and dissemination of data while ensuring data security and conformity to best practices of information-driven research
- training the next generation of creative clinical and translational researchers through innovative training programs that attract the most talented trainees through integrating and expanding existing multidisciplinary programs
- strengthening community-based clinical and translational research to improve health regionally and nationally
- contributing nationally through active collaboration, conducting innovative research and developing novel methods that will be shared with other investigators
What is UB’s CTRC doing already to foster clinical and translational research?
We are not waiting for the building to open to initiate programs to support clinical and translational researchers. Several programs have been initiated and are being conducted as a result of intensive planning over the past two years. We have taken the approach that the CTRC is now functioning as a unit and will have a physical home to expand and grow when the building opens.
Beginning in fall 2011, under the leadership of Roseanne C. Berger, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, we began a weekly core curriculum/seminar series in clinical and translational research modeled after 14 core competencies developed by a national expert committee. The quality of the seminars has been absolutely outstanding and attendance by trainees and faculty has been quite good. When the CTRC building opens, this series will be held in the building’s conference center and all sessions will be video recorded and made widely available.
The UB medical school and Roswell Park Cancer Institute have been jointly awarded a prestigious National Institutes of Health T35 training grant, which supports summer research projects that introduce medial students to careers in clinical and translational research. The program gives medical students, many of whom are more attracted to medical specialties than they are to careers in translational (academic) research, a chance to experience translational research early during their medical school careers.
Through a multi-institution strategic planning effort spearheaded by the Buffalo Translational Consortium, a pilot studies program in clinical and translational research is under way. A total of $200,000 contributed by the dean’s offices of UB’s five health sciences schools, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences and Roswell Park will be awarded. Proposals currently are undergoing two rounds of peer review. Winners, who will be announced this month, will be chosen based on the likelihood that their research would attract major extramural funding. This major commitment of resources by the institutions of the Buffalo Translational Consortium attests to the broad-based support of clinical and translational research in the region.
As part of our planning efforts, the need to develop a degree-granting program in clinical research was identified. After an 18-month planning and application process, the School of Public Health and Health Professions has just started a new graduate program in clinical research, under the leadership of Jo L. Freudenheim, UB Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, and Carl K. Li, research assistant professor and director of graduate studies for the department. This program, which is a clinical research concentration in the MS in epidemiology degree program, provides rigorous scholarly training into research design methods, a critical piece of the clinical and translational research enterprise.
I view these four programs—the core curriculum, the training grant for medical students, the pilot studies program and the graduate program in clinical research—as just the beginning of the types of programs that will be supported and conducted at the CTRC.
What are the specific strengths of the UB CTRC?
The CTRC will be one of few such centers in the country focused on translational research with clinicians and researchers in the same building. The participation of UB’s five health sciences schools is a major strength because few academic health centers have this range of disciplines with clinical and translational research programs. With its impressive range of the health sciences, UB is in a very strong position to best leverage research collaborations both inside the university and with external partners.
What is the Buffalo Translational Consortium?
The Buffalo Translational Consortium (BTC), formed in 2009, is composed of 11 educational, health care and research institutions and four community partners in the Buffalo and Western New York region. Each institution is represented in the governance of the UB CTRC; investigators and faculty from each institution play leadership roles in the CTRC.
The partners include UB’s five health sciences schools—the medical school, School of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Professions—as well as UBMD (the UB medical school’s practice plan), UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, the UB Research Institute on Addictions, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the Great Lakes Health System of Western New York and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute. Faculty and researchers from other academic units at UB, including the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Education, have made major contributions as well.