UW News

July 9, 2012

NIH award advances Institute of Translational Health Sciences groundbreaking work

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

The UW Institute of Translational Health Sciences has been awarded nearly $65 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to continue its groundbreaking work.

The ITHS helps scientists accelerate the translation of research discoveries into practical applications to improve the health of the public. Researchers from all disciplines rely on ITHS for education, resources and services.

For the first time under ITHS, translational researchers from any domain could apply for small grants to collect pilot study data, call a research navigator for  help in finding clinical research resources, or engage expert services in biostatistics, biomedical informatics, and  preclinical research consulting. New research partnerships and networks have formed in the five-state Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) region.

To help expose researchers to the latest practices in translational science, ITHS held a series of Lifelong Learning Seminars, many of which were webcast live to colleagues in the WWAMI region. The seminars have since been viewed by people from all over the world.  In five years, more than 5,000 people have obtained ITHS services, participated in its programs and received thousands of hours of expert consulting and support.

Cancer vaccine researcher Nora Disis heads the UW Institute of Translational Health Sciences.

Cancer vaccine researcher Nora Disis heads the UW Institute of Translational Health Sciences.

Nora Disis, associate dean for translational science in the UW School of Medicine, leads ITHS. She is a professor of medicine in the Division of Oncology, director of the UW Center for Translational Medicine in Womens Health, and a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Disis said the new funding will support the next phase of ITHS work, which includes galvanizing research teams around critical issues and looking at how to take novel technologies – for example,  the molecular design of proteins —  and make them clinically useful. The changing nature of health research requires investigators to ask different questions and approach studies in new ways, Disis explained.

She added, “Were trying to tackle major health issues by exploring how to create multi-disciplinary research teams.”

The next phase of ITHS development will also increase community engagement in translational research. In the WWAMI region, ITHS is starting research networks with clinical practices in rural areas, with tribal groups, and with Hispanic organizations that have shown an interest in research. Already some pilot projects have matched community members with a researcher.

“Its only by bringing in the community that we can be informed about whats important to them,” Disis said,  “I think the Clinical and Translational Science Awards emphasis on the community is a unique aspect that has the capability to transform the way the nation looks at science.

“At the end of the day, people want to see their dollars translated into something that will directly benefit them, their children and their families. ITHS will galvanize a brilliant group of people to create the resources to work on important health issues and figure out a way to do our research faster, cheaper and easier. Thats going to take everyone getting involved.  Thats our challenge over the next five years—to truly start a culture change.”

Marie Carter-Dubois is the Institute of Translational Health Sciences'   new executive director

Marie Carter-Dubois is the Institute of Translational Health Sciences

Marie Carter-Dubois, the new executive director of ITHS, will help lead the second round of CTSA funding. Carter-Dubois is responsible for ITHS finance and administration. She has worked at the University of California, Davis, University of California, San Francisco and at Stanford University. She said she was drawn to the UW because of its international reputation and the innovation and enthusiasm demonstrated throughout the health sciences, academic and financial areas.

“From an administrative perspective, my work will mirror the work of ITHS investigators,” Carter-Dubois said. “I want to create a team with a common vision to move together as quickly as possible to support the teams and projects working to improve the health of the public.”

The Institute of Translational Health Sciences was created in 2007 as part of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards, a consortium aiming to transform the environment for translational research across the country. Locally, ITHS is a collaboration between the UW, Seattle Childrens Research Institute and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

ITHS services include

  • Funding for pilot projects and community-based research
  • Training in-person and online
  • Extensive directory of clinical and laboratory research resources throughout the WWAMI region
  • Clinical study resources, including facilities for adult and pediatric protocols, outpatient and inpatient studies, skilled nurses and research coordinators, expert regulatory and bioethics guidance
  • Study design and biomedical statistics expertise
  • Data capture, data management, and electronic medical record extraction
  • Expertise in pre-clinical product development and in clinical testing tools for conducting community research
  • Collaborations between academia, industry, non-profits, government, clinical practices and the community