Clinical and Translational Science Award Grant Awarded to MUSC
Guest: Dr. Kathleen Brady – Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, MUSC
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – College of Medicine / Dean’s Office, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Kathleen Brady is Professor of Psychiatry in Behavioral Sciences here at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Brady, you have a slew of other titles as well, one of which is Director of the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute (SCTR). We talked about that in another podcast. I want to focus on your role in getting a very exciting and important grant, the CTSA grant. What do those letters stand for?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: CTSA stands for the Clinical and Translational Science Award. This is, really, the largest NIH (National Institutes of Health) initiative of the last decade. It’s designed to, basically, support the translation of research from either the basic science laboratory into humans and clinical practice, and from clinical practice in academic health centers out into the community. So, it’s, basically, to make sure that we can advance the health of the nation by transforming patient observations and basic discovery into clinical practice.
Dr. Linda Austin: And you were Principal Investigator of this behemoth grant, along with Dr. Perry Halushka. Correct?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: That’s correct. Perry is the Co-PI for this grant.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, it was a very large team, I understand, to put this grant together.
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Oh, yes. We had tremendous input from not only the medical university, but from the College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing, Dental Medicine, Allied Health, as well as the College of Medicine. But, in addition to that, this is a consortium across the state. So, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and School of Public Health is involved. Greenwood Genetics is involved. Health Sciences in South Carolina, which is a consortium of hospitals that runs across the state, is also very involved in this application. And, now, we’ll be involved in implementing what we said we’d do.
Dr. Linda Austin: Congratulations for an incredible effort. I know it was a multi-year effort. And I know that you and the rest of the university, and across the state, are really excited about this. Let’s talk about the scope of the grant. How much money over how much time?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: It’s approximately five to six million dollars a year for a five-year period. And then we’ll have the opportunity to renew, really, in perpetuity. We could renew this over and over again. As long as the NIH is funding this sort of initiative, we’ll be eligible.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, what are the activities and personnel that funding will support?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Well, one of the main things the funding will support is the people that are going to help researchers do what they do best; by helping them with the regulatory burden, a lot of the paper work, and that will help to link the research community, the basic sciences to clinicians, and MUSC, along with investigators at USC and Greenwood Genetics, to the community. So, this is a grant that doesn’t support the specific research as much as it supports the infrastructure and the personnel that facilitate and make research run more smoothly for everybody.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, for example, the information technology: the computers and hardware, and software; the programmers; the bioinformatics services; the statistical analysis, those sorts of things?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Yes. All of those personnel are supported. But I think one of the most unique and interesting things about this grant is that it really will support a large number of community outreach initiatives. So, we will both help community members figure out how they can participate in research, and how community organizations can apply for research grants themselves. So, we’ll be doing a lot of partnering with individuals and with organizations within the communities of South Carolina, so that we can better bring the discoveries from research to the patient, and to improve the health of people throughout the state.
Dr. Linda Austin: Can you give an example of the kinds of bridging structures that this grant will allow in terms of real life experiments, clinical trials, and actualization of medical findings?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Well, one of the things that we’re going to be supporting is a community partnership program. There will be pilot project funding as well as access to the infrastructure for a community organization that wants to partner with medical university faculty for the purpose of conducting research.
The ideas for research won’t necessarily only be ideas that are generated by the MUSC faculty, but questions that are of interest to people in the community and community organizations. So, a community partner will be able to bring forward their idea: prevention of smoking in adolescents, for example, using their church-based population; that sort of thing. And we’ll partner them with a researcher who will help make that happen.
Dr. Linda Austin: I know that MUSC has certainly invested a lot in just the preparation phase in order for us to be seen as worthy of this grant. What, in turn, will this grant do for the institution?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Well, this grant, really, will provide a tremendous amount of infrastructure support so we can grow our research operation. The other thing that’s really important about this grant is there will only be 60 in the nation when the program is fully implemented. And those 60 CTSAs will communicate very actively with each other. They’ll share innovations. They’ll share technology. There will be a number of groups; subsets of the CTSA, giving us, MUSC, access to expertise nationwide. So, our partners will be Harvard, Yale, and UCLA. Vanderbilt is a very close partner of ours in terms of bioinformatics. They have really been able to help move us along much more quickly in the area of bioinformatics than we would have been able to on our own.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, then, it places us in that very elite group now. It puts us in very close collaboration with the premier research network in the United States, moving well into the next century.
Dr. Kathleen Brady: That’s correct. In fact, this award is probably going to be the defining award for those universities that, really, are excellent academic health centers with a strong research portfolio, and those that aren’t. Having a CTSA is clearly the seal of approval from the NIH.
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Brady, I’d like for you to talk a little bit about what this grant has meant to you, personally, over the last few years. I know you’ve spent a lot of your professional time working on it.
Dr. Kathleen Brady: When I first started thinking about this grant and putting together the teams for the grant, I realized that it would require that I put some of my own research interests aside. There’s just not enough time in the day to do everything. As I’ve developed this, it’s really broadened my perspective on research tremendously. I’ve gotten a much better idea about what’s going both at the university, and statewide; all kinds of expertise and people that I didn’t know about. And I think, if anything, it’s made me a stronger researcher all around. I feel like I have a much greater breadth of understanding of the possibilities of biologic science and research.
Dr. Linda Austin: Can you comment on how, let’s say, someone professional or somebody in the lay community, who wants to learn more about this program and monitor the results of this; after all, it’s tax dollars, can follow the progress and the fruition of this grant in coming years?
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Well, one of the things we’re in the midst of developing; and will continue, is a very strong electronic presence. We’ve got a great website that will launch as SCTR launches, in July. It will be a very dynamic website, which will be publicizing whatever the latest findings are. It will also be thee place that an individual can go to and access the resources and the personnel, and the services, that the grant provides. And these services are going to be available not only to the people in the academic center, but also to members of the community. For instance, a community member who may want to know how they can become one of those community partners and partner with researchers to answer questions they have or improve the health of their community can go to the SCTR website and log on, and figure that out.
Dr. Linda Austin: I would think, also, for somebody who has just gotten a diagnosis, let’s say, of cancer or heart disease, or even something more rare than that, could keep an eye on clinical trials to see what might be available.
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Absolutely. We have a clinical trials listing that’s current and has a lay abstract, and will actually allow the person who’s reading, if they’re interested in finding out more about the trial or contacting the coordinator for the trial, they can immediately link to that person.
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Brady, a million congratulations to you, to Dr. Halushka, and to the incredible team of folks that you put together and collaborated with to make this grant possible. We are so proud of you.
Dr. Kathleen Brady: Thank you so much.
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