The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded $58.1 million from the National Institutes of Health to renew its five-year Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program to help improve the health of North Carolinians.
With the new award, the UNC-Chapel Hill-led CTSA will broaden its reach across the state by continuing its alliance with RTI International and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and adding a formal partnership with North Carolina State University.
The partners will leverage their institutional strengths in cutting-edge research, education, and health care to bring biomedical innovations to bear on the greatest health needs of North Carolina.
“This major award is good news for the health of all North Carolinians,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson, PhD. “It supports a critical pipeline that takes the latest scientific discoveries in our university labs and moves them into practice, leading to new treatments and new drugs that improve and save lives.”
Launched in 2006, the CTSA program has enabled innovative research teams to speed discovery and advance science aimed at improving the nation’s health. Institutional CTSA awards are at the heart of the program, providing academic hubs for translational sciences. The program currently supports a consortium of more than 50 academic medical institutions that is fostering team science, leveraging national resources, and transforming the way biomedical research is conducted across the country.
The grant will provide another five years of funding for the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute, which is now recognized as the central entity on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus responsible for the advancement of clinical and translational research. Since its inception in 2008 as the home of UNC’s CTSA, NC TraCS has fundamentally changed the clinical and translational research landscape at UNC and across the state, with outreach efforts touching each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Over the last funding period, NC TraCS worked with over 350 practices, 130 community-based organizations, 88 percent of other CTSA hubs, and numerous non-CTSA universities through pilot awards or other initiatives. The Institute provided leadership for a number of high-impact multi-center clinical trials in HIV, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and pregnancy, among others. It also engaged patients as allies in the research process by developing Join the Conquest, a clinical trials website that includes over 6,000 registered participants and over 200 unique research studies.
“What sets NC TraCS apart is our deep engagement with the patients and communities we serve, as well as our focus on training the research investigators and staff of the future,” said Tim Carey, MD, MPH, Co-Principal Investigator at NC TraCS at UNC-Chapel Hill.
To increase its impact and scope over the next five years, NC TraCS is establishing a new formal relationship with North Carolina State University.
“Through much of our research — developing new biosensors, creating materials for biomedical products, and establishing data science solutions, just to name a few — NC State works at the interface of human health,” said Alan Rebar, PhD, Vice Chancellor for Research at NC State University. “This newly formed collaboration will enable us to work more closely with our colleagues at NC TraCS to bring together some of the brightest and best minds in the Triangle to create solutions to real human health challenges.”
During the new grant period, NC TraCS will continue its commitment to moving scientific advances from the laboratory into clinical practice. Through its 4D (Drugs, Devices, and Diagnostics Development) Program, it will focus on shortening the developmental pipeline and increasing the number of companies created so that important products that address identified clinical needs get to the marketplace more quickly.
“The collaborative nature of scientists and clinicians at UNC-Chapel Hill has made NC TraCS a success story to be proud of,” said William L. Roper, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care. “Through the CTSA, our researchers have accelerated research to benefit North Carolinians and will continue to do so in new and important ways with this new round of funding.”