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Translational Medicine Collaboration: A New NIH-Funded Consortium—Penn Medicine & CHOP
October 10, 2006, Volume 53, No. 7

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the School of Medicine, along with CHOP, $68 million over the next five years.  Institutional commitments of $30 million bring the Philadelphia consortium’s total to nearly $100 million.

In addition to the Philadelphia collaboration, 11 other academic health centers throughout the nation are receiving these awards. An additional 52 institutions are receiving planning grants to help them prepare applications to join the consortium. When fully implemented in 2012, about 60 institutions will be linked together to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science.

NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni recently announced the launch of this national consortium that will transform how translational biomedical research is conducted. This new consortium is funded through NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs). “The development of this consortium represents the first systematic change in our approach to clinical research in 50 years,” said Dr. Zerhouni. “Working together, these sites will serve as discovery engines that will improve medical care by applying new scientific advances to real-world practice. We expect to see new approaches reach underserved populations, local community organizations, and health care providers to ensure that medical advances are reaching the people who need them.” 

 “This award to the School of Medicine and its collaborators will help us use our biomedical research and medical education programs to benefit our patients even more greatly,” said Dr. Arthur Rubenstein, EVP of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the School of Medicine. “It will enhance the development of interdisciplinary structures designed to foster and facilitate research and education in the emerging discipline of translational medicine.”

“The Philadelphia collaboration will act as a vital catalyst for us to undertake a programmatic transformation heralded two years ago by the foundation of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (ITMAT),” said Dr. Garret FitzGerald, director of ITMAT and principal investigator of the CTSA. “Crucially, the award application process has engaged the School of Medicine with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Wistar Institute and the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia, along with eight other schools at Penn to form a truly interdisciplinary alliance to facilitate clinical and translational research. Our major educational investment will support the emergence of a new breed of investigators who will realize the fruits of basic research and deliver them to the community in the years to come.” In addition to educational goals, the Philadelphia translational medicine alliance will develop better designs for clinical trials; design new and improved clinical research informatics tools; expand outreach to minority and medically underserved communities; and forge new partnerships with private and public health care organizations.

“Children’s Hospital is delighted to be among the first of pediatric hospitals benefiting from CTSAs and we look forward to participating in this interdisciplinary alliance with Penn and the other partners to advance the infrastructure and efficiency of research,” said Dr. Peter Adamson, director of the Office of Clinical and Translational Research at CHOP. “Penn and Children’s Hospital have a long history of collaboration between investigators, but by combining efforts under the CTSA, the depth and breadth of infrastructure support will advance the pace and foster new areas of critical research.”

One example of how the grant will streamline research is by development of a sophisticated approach to improving the effective use of medications for pediatric patients. Computerized programs can combine data from laboratory studies, results and findings from related drugs, and using highly sophisticated mathematical modeling and simulation techniques, help researchers predict the most effective dosages and delivery methods for particular drugs. “We can take a promising new molecule and expedite some of the more laborious, time-consuming traditional methods to provide a systematic approach to estimating drug dosages before we use those doses in patients enrolling on a clinical trial,” said Dr. Adamson.

The CTSA grant will enable CHOP to reach a new level of informatics technology with the creation of an “E-Port,” a cross-institutional website that will guide researchers through the regulatory and approval process and create a central location for all documentation, thus making the business of conducting research streamlined and more efficient.

ITMAT at Penn anticipated many aspects of this new initiative, among them, inclusion of the NIH-funded Penn and CHOP General Clinical Research Centers, dedicated “dry” and “wet” bench space for translational research, and a robust educational program, based on an M.S. degree in Translational Research, within the institute.

ITMAT, designated as the “academic home” for clinical and translational research, has been broadened to serve a trans-institutional role. Its structure has been transformed to foster interdisciplinary science from discovery of new molecules through to the study of drug action in large populations. This change has been accomplished by developing interdisciplinary centers, related cores, innovative interdisciplinary programs of research, and strategies to engage and inform communities and their physicians. A particular emphasis has been placed on interdisciplinary training and on broadening the reach of the educational initiatives to span from undergraduate students to mature clinicians and scientists.

Almanac - October 10, 2006, Volume 53, No. 7