Bruce Blazar

CTSI receives $42.6 million to expand U of M health research impact

The University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute recently received more than $42.6 million in renewed National Institutes of Health funding through the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program that will help researchers make important discoveries that impact Minnesotans’ health.

“This funding extends to clinical and translational researchers and workforce across the state through programs and services, project funding and support, and the availability of resources and tools to ultimately accelerate the application of research discoveries for the purpose of helping Minnesotans live healthier, longer lives,” said Bruce Blazar, CTSI’s Director and Principal Investigator on its CTSA award.

The funding will build on CTSI’s efforts to: 

  • Train an outstanding multidisciplinary, diverse workforce across the spectrum of clinical and translational research that is skilled in and rewarded for team science. 
  • Streamline methods and processes to increase research capacity, locally and nationally.
  • Engage communities and stakeholders to improve the process of translation and delivery of healthcare across the lifespan and to a diverse population.
  • Contribute unique U of M resources to the CTSA network.

Additionally, the award helps CTSI support the University of Minnesota’s clinical and translational research goals of integrating research into clinical care at University of Minnesota (M Health) clinics, supports opportunities for enhanced research participation by its partners including Hennepin Healthcare, the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, among others.

Supporting researchers across the institution

“A successful CTSA program is critical to our survival as a research institution, said Jakub Tolar, Medical School Dean and Academic Health Center Interim Vice President for Health Sciences. "NIH places a high value on our having this mechanism for sharing research with other institutions and for developing the future of team science. Even for the busiest scientist, it is worth taking the time to explore the core resources CTSI offers. The more we integrate it into our everyday activities, the more valuable it will be.”

“Over the last seven years, CTSI has provided important clinical and translational research support across the University, including project support and funding for six technologies that have led to startup ventures in areas like microbiome analysis and cancer drug delivery,” said Allen Levine, University of Minnesota vice president for research.

The five-year award is effective March 30, 2018 through February 28, 2023 and is one of the University’s largest federal research grants.

Training a new generation

The CTSA grant links three awards, including the key infrastructure award, the faculty Scholar Career Development award, and a new Training Core that offers funding for pre- and postdoctoral trainees.

“This mentored career development component was not part of our 2011 award so we’ll now be able to offer trainees a robust program that helps them develop the much needed skills required for a career in multidisciplinary clinical and translational research,” said Blazar. “This is a critical juncture for biomedical sciences and healthcare. This new support for current researchers and for training new generations of clinical and translational researchers is a vitally important investment in improving population health now and in the future.”

On an annual basis, the grant allows for eight pre-doctoral and three post-doctoral trainees and the faculty Research Career Development grant provides three years of 75 percent salary support for protected research time, funds to conduct research, and travel funds to six junior investigators. 

The NIH’s National Center for Advancing Clinical and Translational Sciences manages the CTSA program.

Making an impact

With the original five-year $51 million CTSA grant issued in 2011, CTSI joined the prestigious CTSA consortium comprised of approximately 60 medical research institutions across the country working together to improve the way clinical and translational research is conducted.

Since then, CTSI has diligently worked to develop programs, services, funding and support, and tools and resources to help researchers and study teams across the university and beyond to impact the translation of discoveries in clinical practice.

Our key accomplishments and successes include: 

  • Distributing $22.2 million in funding for more than 170 clinical and translational research projects conducted by University of Minnesota and community researchers, which led to more than 650 publications citing our grants.
  • Graduating 23 faculty Research Career Development scholars, of which 12 already have attracted further NIH funding to continue their research, training more than 300 scholars through seminars and 1,600 users through online training modules, and advancing the next generation of health researchers through mentored career development.
  • Conducting more than 1,400 biostatistics consultations, providing more than 550 research projects with biomedical informatics-related services and clinical data, assisting with the completion of more than 200 FDA investigational new drug or device applications, managing 375 pre-award studies, and providing more than 600 investigators with clinical staff and space services. 
  • Funding and supporting research projects that have led to a community forum on tackling the rural Minnesota heroin and opioid problem, a rapid infection diagnostic tool, and influencing policy changes for incarcerated women and their families to improve health outcomes that is now an emerging national model.
  • Developing an open-source web tool that helps Minnesotans and other communities find and enroll in research opportunities to aid in the discovery of future treatments and cures. The tool also has been adopted and launched by three institutions in the CTSA network and is used locally by researchers to recruit patients in clinical studies.
  • Launching and managing several enterprise-wide tools and resources for U of M researchers and study teams, including biomedical informatics tools such as REDCap, OnCore Clinical Trial Management System, i2b2 (Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside), CTSI’s CTR Portal which provides access to resources and services, several biomedical shared data networks, StudyFinder to assist patients in identifying and volunteering for studies, and CTSI’s Research Toolkit.

 Requests for Applications are planned for release throughout 2018 for CTSI funding and activities.