MICHR to tackle goal of diversifying and improving research to speed therapies for benefit of all patients


Traditionally, the timeline for translating research into effective therapies for disease has been long. On average, it takes more than ten years to bring a potential medication to market, and most drugs and other interventions that reach clinical trials fail to produce any benefit for patients.

To address this challenge, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR) a new 7-year, $71M Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).

The grant continues the University of Michigan’s 16-year participation in the CTSA Program, a national network of medical research institutions working together to improve the process of translational research to deliver more treatments to more patients more quickly.

“U-M is dedicated to putting this NIH award toward the advancement of research to improve the lives of humankind. With this support, our researchers will continue to search for ways to broaden the impact of translational and clinical research by working together to address the biggest health issues facing us all,” said Marschall Runge, MD, PhD, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan, dean of the U-M Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine.

NCATS has called upon participating institutions to make translational and clinical research more efficient and effective.

“With more than 60 CTSA hubs nationally, MICHR is privileged to be among the first awardees to address this new charge from NIH,” said Julie Lumeng, MD, MICHR executive director, associate dean for research at the U-M Medical School and associate vice president for clinical and human subjects research.

“This award will position MICHR to lead the way in building the field of translational science, with the intent of extending life and reducing the impact of illness and disability.”

Historically, the NCATS CTSA program focused on helping research institutions build the necessary infrastructure to catalyze and support clinical and translational research at universities and other institutions around the nation. As a result, foundational elements to support clinical and translational research, such as data sharing and research training, have matured nationally and at U-M.

NIH is now charging the funded CTSAs with examining and improving the systems within translational research—taking a look at the science of translational science–including identifying barriers to bringing therapies to practice and developing evidence-based solutions to address them.

“Similar to how researchers study the systems of an assembly line to improve efficiencies, our colleagues at MICHR will play a critical role in studying the process of translational research so that our teams can effectively and efficiently catalyze innovative research and discoveries for broad societal impact,” said Rebecca Cunningham, MD, vice president for research at U-M and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

MICHR will use the grant to develop and demonstrate scientific and operational innovations in the translational process, shortening the time to develop and deliver new treatments, and then sharing these solutions nationally.

For example, MICHR will catalyze translational science with a high degree of potential for direct patient impact by establishing a new Behavioral Research Innovation and Support Program.

A large proportion of extramural research grants to U-M involve basic and applied studies of human behavior. The Behavioral Research Innovation and Support Program, led by Susan Murphy, ScD, will optimize support for behavioral research by providing the latest training, guidance, and resources to improve the efficacy of this work.

MICHR’s Interdisciplinary Research and Team Science Program will address the government’s call to foster team science by creating novel evidence-based interventions that build and sustain high-functioning research teams to tackle complex problems in health research.

In addition, MICHR will cultivate community-engaged research by extending partnerships statewide and developing a new Patient Partner Academy, led by patient advisor Greg Merritt, PhD, to elevate patients’ voices locally and nationally in all stages of the research process.

“MICHR has 16 years of experience in facilitating translational research,” said Erica Marsh, MD, associate director for MICHR. “Going forward, we will use that experience to grow a community of translational scientists contributing to the national goal of accelerating the realization of interventions that improve human health. MICHR is guided by a collaborative and inclusive approach and is especially committed to centering patients and communities in this work. We will strive to address health disparities and deliver the benefits of translational science across Michigan and beyond.”

MICHR’s renewed focus on advancing translational science aligns with U-M President Santa Ono’s new strategy to amplify research and scholarship.

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