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CTSI awards new translational science grants

Funding for translational science pilot projects was part of the grant that was recently awarded to the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). The goal of the translational science funding program is to streamline the process of translating scientific discoveries from ideas to real-world impact for improved human health to find better, faster ways to bring scientific advances to real-world use.

The CTSI Office of Discovery and Translation (ODAT) is utilizing the knowledge, program infrastructure, and successful methods developed through its translational research pilot program to implement this new program focused on translational science.

Applications that were received for the translational science RFA that was announced in late August 2023 were evaluated by a review panel of senior CTSI staff and affiliated faculty.

“We are extremely pleased with the number and quality of proposals in this first funding cycle, as it demonstrates our research community's interest in developing new ways to overcome significant barriers and challenges in translating research discoveries to patients,” said Sandra Wells, PhD, ODAT director.

Following an iterative review process, ODAT has awarded $50,000 in funding to each of the following 12-month projects:

  • Elliot Arsoniadis, MD, PhD – Department of Surgery, Medical School
    SAVETHEBOTTOMS!!!: A Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approach to Reaching and Engaging Gay Men in Healthcare Delivery & Innovation
  • Gwenyth Fischer, MD – Department of Pediatrics, Medical School
    AI Assistant for Non-English Speaking Clinical Trial Participants
  • Ashley Mahoney, PhD – Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship Department, Carlson School of Management
    Catalyst: Accelerating Access to Government Translational Funding
  • Robert Schumacher, PhD – Center for Translational Medicine, Office of Academic and Clinical Affairs
    Developing solutions to barriers in translating discoveries into new therapeutics at the University of Minnesota

Project summaries are below. The next RFA for the translational science opportunity is scheduled to open in late March 2024, building upon the success of the current round of funding. For more information, please visit the translational science funding program web page.

Elliot Arsoniadis, MD, PhD – Department of Surgery, Medical School

SAVETHEBOTTOMS!!!: A Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approach to Reaching and Engaging Gay Men in Healthcare Delivery & Innovation

Lack of discrete data capture surrounding sexual orientation for patients within a health system, as well as complete avoidance of the health system by some LGBTQ+ people altogether, make efforts at translation of biomedical discoveries and evidence-based care aimed at this patient population difficult. This project aims to identify gay men both within the health system and within the community at large and deliver them targeted messages via social media about health screening specific to their community. This project has the potential to enhance the ability to improve the health of LGBTQ+ persons and the approaches can be extrapolated to reach similar communities experiencing health inequity.

Gwenyth Fischer, MD – Department of Pediatrics, Medical School

AI Assistant for Non-English Speaking Clinical Trial Participants

Lack of diversity in clinical trials is a well recognized problem, both by regulatory bodies and those conducting research. Clinical trials are a key milestone for the development of new medical treatments and therapies, as they help determine the safety and efficacy of potential interventions. To ensure the reliability and generalizability of clinical trial results, it is crucial to have a diverse pool of participants that reflects the broader population. One significant barrier that hinders the participation of non-English speakers (NES) in these trials is language. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made huge leaps in language in the past several years as exhibited by programs such as Chat GPT. This project aims to create a Healthcare AI Tool designed specifically for NES patients that will act as expert medical interpreter and educator to improve understanding of complex medical information contained in the consent and activities of a clinical trial.

Ashley Mahoney, PhD – Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship Department, Carlson School of Management

Catalyst: Accelerating Access to Government Translational Funding

When launching a startup out of the University, one common challenge is attracting a business executive to leave their full-time role and join a startup that is forming. Additionally, post-license the startups with business executives are far more successful at raising investment and delivering a product to customers or patients. This project aims to connect innovator teams with business talent at a much earlier stage to help develop a robust commercial plan, which will increase the likelihood of securing government translational SBIR/STTR funding, save significant time in their pathway to market and accelerate the eventual launch of the startup. MIN-Corps and UMN Technology Commercialization will partner together to address this bottleneck by leveraging the national I-Corps program. If the new process is effective at the University of Minnesota, it could be implemented more broadly at other institutions to address this common barrier in the translational process.

Robert Schumacher, PhD – Center for Translational Medicine, Office of Academic and Clinical Affairs

Developing solutions to barriers in translating discoveries into new therapeutics at the University of Minnesota

Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling preclinical studies are very challenging to plan and execute and are a significant barrier, especially at an academic institution, to the efficient and successful advancement of promising therapeutic candidates into clinical development. There are a number of events or milestones where there are frequent delays in clinical translation during the preclinical phase. This project aims to study and address translational barriers encountered by investigators at the University of Minnesota whose inventions are in the preclinical phase of clinical translation. Identifying these barriers and developing effective solutions at the University that will fast track testing and translation could be applied, with appropriate modifications, to other institutions as well.

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