USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles receive nearly $37 million grant

The National Institutes of Health award allows scientists to continue work in patient and community health

July 12, 2016 Meg Aldrich

A team of researchers led by Thomas Buchanan, Michele Kipke and Jonathan Samet of the Keck School of Medicine of USC has received a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health.

The award, which was made June 30 to USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, is the second in the history of the two institutions. It will provide $36.6 million over five years to support continuation of the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI), the hub for community engagement in clinical and translational research at USC and CHLA. The grant will allow the SC CTSI to continue to provide critical resources to help advance cutting-edge research and scientific breakthroughs in patient and community health, with a special focus on diverse and vulnerable populations.

“This was a major team effort,” said Buchanan, director of the SC CTSI and vice dean for research at the Keck School of Medicine. “The SC CTSI has been a driving force behind the development of a culture that translates scientific discoveries into improved health care and health in the communities that we serve.”

Since its initial funding in 2008, SC CTSI has supported more than 800 investigators and nurtured research at USC and CHLA, successfully building interdisciplinary teams, advancing drug and device development, supporting clinical trials, engaging diverse communities in research, and training clinical and translational researchers. Its efforts have contributed more than $90 million in new extramural funding, more than 500 scientific publications, more than 80 patent applications and three startups, in addition to tangible health improvements in surrounding communities.

Kipke, who co-directs the SC CSTI with Buchanan and leads the Community Engagement group, is a professor of clinical pediatrics and vice chair of research at CHLA.

“We are placing increasing emphasis on clinical and community trials, where the ‘rubber meets the road’ in transforming research into solutions for better health. We want to make a real difference in the health of the communities we serve,” she said.

Jonathan Samet, principal investigator of the Institutional Career Development component of the new NIH award, sees the support as a key resource for early career development in clinical and translational research.

“It is absolutely critical for developing the human capital that the Keck School of Medicine faculty need to succeed,” he said.

The NIH award will support a wide range of new initiatives, including:

• collaboration with USC’s Institute for Creative Technology to create “virtual humans” — an interface similar to a sophisticated computer game — to engage children and their families in clinical research

• working closely with the Los Angeles Department of Health and Human Services to change how health care is delivered to vulnerable populations

• training community members to increase engagement of underrepresented persons in clinical trials

• use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to increase recruitment and compliance in clinical trials

• development of robust electronic platforms for data warehousing and clinical trials management

“This is exactly the kind of work we want to be doing: creating significant advances in scientific research and patient care among underserved populations,” said Michael Quick, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. 

Keck Medicine of USC CEO Thomas Jackiewicz agreed, adding that a “hallmark of a top-level academic medical center is its ability to integrate outstanding clinical care with research and education. The new CTSA will be a very strong resource to drive this integration.”

The Clinical and Translational Science Award program was established by the National Institutes of Health in 2006. It provides funding to more than 60 major research universities to support the development, conduct and improvement of clinical and translational research.