In August 2015, the CTSI was awarded $23.4 million in renewed funding (total to date $59,324,506) through a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award Program. This new four-year award allows the CTSI to continue to promote the highest quality and most efficient clinical and translational research. Our aspirational goals are to explore and solve new challenges in translational science by developing and deploying new tools, methods, and processes to make it easier for scientists in the BU hub to do better research and to do research better. We believe these goals are best accomplished by engaging individuals with complementary and supplementary disciplines interacting in networks of teams.

Dr. David Center, the CTSI UL1 principal investigator and associate provost of translational research, leads the award in collaboration with Dr. David Felson, KL2 principal investigator and professor and section chief, BUSM; and Dr. Darrell Kotton, TL1 principal investigator, professor and director for the Center for Regenerative Medicine, BUSM.

We are also pleased to report two University-wide highlights from our Research Implementation and Participation (RIP) and Translational Science Base (TSB) programs. The first is the initiation of a paradigm shift in our traditional Clinical Research Unit, converting it to a clinical research resources service center. Second, at the beginning of our funding in August 2015, the CTSI leadership engaged BU leadership with two important concepts: expanded interdisciplinary support for both pilot awards and our Affinity Research Collaboratives (ARCs). This resulted in the creation of a satellite multidisciplinary and team science office on the BU Charles River Campus and the influx of new university support to identify lifespan-based collaborations that will have global impact. The first ARC that crosses the entire lifespan in the study of the causes and prevention of pediatric and geriatric susceptibility to pneumonia is now far along in the organizational stages. It will explore innate immune defects that have targets that respond to drugs for intervention in early childhood and at the end of life that can be applied to a wide range of at-risk populations.

CTSA Pod Resources. Dr. Center recently joined the CTSA steering committee and instituted a Pod-wide chat room format for monthly calls to identify and notify other hubs of potential shared resources and to share best practices and solve problems. The Pod format enables us to test successes in a controlled environment before expanding to the entire network.

CTSA Network Resources. We have developed three programs for distribution to the CTSA network:

  • A network-wide iPSC biobank of cell lines derived from highly phenotyped populations. BU has three initial collaborators on U01 submission (Harvard, UPenn, and the University of Chicago), each with its own curated iPSC banks. The goal will be to create hubs of expertise in creation of iPSC lines with centralized curation and banking to permit any investigator in any hub open access to patient-derived lines of interest. The uses are infinite, including ex vivo clinical trials, efficacy and toxicity studies, gene editing for hereditary diseases, replacement therapy, etc. We expect this to become one of the premiere CTSA network resources that will continue to grow as more CTSA hubs contribute and draw from the resource. There is no other system in the world with this type of open access for scientists. The second generation of our DHOME i2b2-based tool for comparative effectiveness research. Following a successful trial in five CTSAs (University of Massachusetts, University of Cincinnati, University of Washington, University of South Alabama, and Boston University), we are now modifying the tool so it has a more user friendly inquiry system and developing web-based virtual personal network resources for collaborating CTSA investigators to share data without removal from the primary site of storage. The second generation openSESAME tool for gene pattern comparisons allows for discovery of potential repurposed drugs. The second generation will also integrate all species RNA profiles into the database stored at BU-CTSI to identify animal models and pathways (transgenic models) of interest.

NCATS Common Metrics Initiative. Kimberly Brimhall, PhD, serves on the Network Common Metrics Planning Committee. Kim Stevenson and Dana McDonough have joined the Consortium 2.0 and Translational Workforce Development workgroups whose first reports were presented at the strategic face-to-face meeting and are heavily involved in the June 2016 go-live effort.