UCLA has received a $59 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The five-year award supports the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), a research partnership among UCLA, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, the Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. This is the second renewal for UCLA after receiving its first award in 2011. The CTSI is led by Drs. Steven Dubinett, Arleen Brown and Arash Naeim.
The UCLA CTSI is among the largest institutes of a 60-member consortium established by NCATS to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into effective health interventions that improve clinical care. The intent of the consortium is to harness the strengths of its members in achieving greater health impact than a single institution can achieve on its own.
“This continued funding will help us expand our efforts to translate discoveries that can improve the of health of Los Angeles County’s diverse population,” said Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and CEO of UCLA Health. “Working with our partners, we can continue to build the capability of scientists, healthcare, and public health systems to integrate research and clinical care to solve the most pressing population health problems. I would also like to thank and congratulate all the many members of our organization who contributed to the success of this grant and to the CTSI leadership who have consistently pursued our missions and our values.”
The UCLA CTSI was instrumental in the rapid research response to the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting more than 200 basic, clinical and translational studies at UCLA and its partner institutions. This response included a UCLA CTSI-led statewide collaborative effort across 11 academic institutions and more than 75 community partners to increase vaccination rates and participation in clinical trials for at-risk populations. This academic-community collaborative in Los Angeles County increased the participation of underrepresented groups in four vaccine trials to greater than 65%. The collaborative was supported in part by a grant from the NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL).
The UCLA CTSI has focused from its inception on improving health and health care delivery in Los Angeles County, prioritizing populations experiencing health disparities. Research conducted with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services in the county’s health care system led to significantly higher screening rates for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of preventable blindness in adults. In collaboration with community pharmacists and 52 Black-owned barbershops, the UCLA CTSI demonstrated a successful model for detecting and treating undiagnosed high-blood pressure in barbershop patrons.
“Based on the firm CTSI foundation developed in the past decade, we are now poised to accelerate the impact for the health of all of our communities”, said Dr. Dubinett, founding CTSI director and Interim Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The UCLA CTSI has supported more than 2,100 investigators at its four partner institutions. This support contributed to important discoveries, which included discoveries in lung cancer and breast cancer, two of the leading causes of premature death and disability in Los Angeles County. Through its extensive training and education programs, the UCLA CTSI has been preparing the next generation of clinical and translational scientists. During its first decade, the UCLA CTSI trained more than 1,080 junior faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate and healthcare professional students, undergraduates and research staff.
The UCLA CTSI annually has supported 10,000 clinical research visits in outpatient, inpatient and community settings; created the Los Angeles Data Resource, a federation of clinical data warehouses encompassing UCLA, the University of Southern California, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, City of Hope and Cedars-Sinai; supported the creation of a precision health biobank, powered by an innovative, universal video informed consent process; and formed a research partnership with Los Angeles County that has affected both the care provided by more than 270 physicians and the outcomes of more than 80,000 patients in the county health system.
Additional accomplishments include creating the CTSI Center for Systematic, Measurable, Actionable, Resilient, and Technology-driven (SMART) Health, which develops digital and data-driven health care technologies, and the CTSI Office of Clinical Research, which develops more effective ways to speed the activation of clinical trials.
“The importance of addressing and eliminating health disparities is abundantly clear. Diverse health science research leads to equitable health outcomes and plays a key role in tackling pressing medical and well-being challenges in all communities. Our dynamic partnership of four institutions has remained unswervingly focused on this pursuit of health equity through research, and this renewed support from NIH will allow us to continue unabated for another half-decade,” said Dr. David Carlisle, president and chief executive of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
“For more than seven decades, innovations at The Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation have placed essential and life-saving tools in the hands of physicians and health care workers,” said Dr. David Meyer, president and chief executive of the Lundquist Institute. “Through the CTSI partnership and the benefits that it brings to the Lundquist, we will be able to ensure that future discoveries continue to improve the health of our diverse community.”
“This award advances our comprehensive translational research programs dedicated to enabling scientific discoveries for the direct benefit to our patients and the community,” said Dr. Shlomo Melmed, executive vice president and dean of the medical faculty at Cedars–Sinai. “As the largest academic medical center in California, Cedars-Sinai is pleased to partner with our UCLA colleagues in this multidisciplinary endeavor to improve the health of our community and enhance our diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
In the next five years, the UCLA CTSI will build on its progress by broadening collaborations with the community as well as with faculty across a wide area of expertise, including engineering, business and public health. The CTSI also plans to establish mobile units to bring clinical trials to underserved communities; enhance training and education programs with team science principles; and apply its expertise in data science and artificial intelligence to improve health care delivery. The UCLA CTSI has embarked on an Inclusive Science Initiative that emphasizes diversity, equity and inclusion in research activities as well as in research training. The Inclusive Science Initiative is led by Dr. Keith Norris, UCLA CTSI senior associate director and professor of medicine at UCLA.
“The CTSI fosters an environment where we are able to expand our capacity for collaboration, community engagement, and team science that captures the imagination of our researchers and community,” said Dr. Naeim, who is also chief medical officer for clinical research for UCLA Health. “That’s what makes the work of the CTSI so compelling.”