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June 13, 2018

Following grant renewal, CCaTS abuzz with activity

By Caitlin Doran

In October 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) renewed Mayo Clinic’s Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences—an award totaling $48.8 million over five years. This renewal allows Mayo Clinic to continue pursuing its long-term goals in clinical and translational science, while also setting new short term objectives.

In the months since the grant renewal, the researchers and support staff at the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCaTS) have been constantly on the move. Their focus: to build on more than a decade of success while launching innovative programs designed to keep Mayo Clinic on the leading edge of translational research.

Cultivating the next generation of biomedical entrepreneurs

Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and the Mayo Clinic Zebrafish Facility

In partnership with the Mayo Clinic Research Committee, CCaTS recently unveiled a new Office of Entrepreneurship. “Innovation and entrepreneurship are invaluable to move lifesaving technology from the bench … to the patient,” says Amanda Leightner, Ph.D., head of program development.

The Office is dedicated to fostering the development of entrepreneurial ideas and projects along the translational science path. In particular, the Office of Entrepreneurship’s goal is to support women and minority students, who are underrepresented in entrepreneurial leadership.

Recent highlights:

  • Inspired by the TV show “Shark Tank,” the Office recently spawned Walleye Tank—a competitive event designed to educate, empower and support entrepreneurs at Mayo Clinic and from throughout the state of Minnesota. Spin-off competitions have also been launched in Florida and Arizona.
  • A novel “AirBNB for research” business model called The Hatchery has also been developed. This mobile laboratory model takes advantage of research space that is unoccupied for short periods of time (6-12 months), resulting in a net revenue gain for academic hosts.
  • Graduate and medical students at Mayo Clinic can now sign up for Case Studies in Entrepreneurship, a course that teaches the basics of launching biomedical business ventures. Many students go on to pitch their ideas at Walleye Tank.

Sponsoring innovation to meet patient needs

"Invention occurs when smart people ask smart questions and test innovative solutions. Mayo Clinic's pool of skilled researchers and clinician-scientists regularly invent novel treatments and tools for which they need assistance to realize their full potential," says Andrew D. Badley, M.D., director of CCaTS Office of Translation to Practice.

The Office recently created a new Advance the Practice Research Award, designed to support research projects that address unmet clinical needs of patients through innovation. The 2018 awardees were announced in March. 14 projects were selected from among more than 70 submitted, representing Arizona, Florida and Rochester campuses. Each selected project received a substantial award to fund its work as well as project management and subject matter expertise from the Office of Entrepreneurship.

Transforming career pathways for researchers

The latest data suggest that researchers who participate in Mayo Clinic clinical and translational science training go on to have more productive scientific careers. They publish more frequently in higher impact journals, compared to peers who did not participate in such a program. “All clinical researchers know that this work can be very challenging, and our CCaTS training programs equip researchers with the tools that maximize success”, says David Warner, M.D., director of CCaTS Education Resources.

In addition, the CCaTS curriculum shapes research careers in subtler ways, preparing investigators to seize opportunities “outside their comfort zones.” A new series of case-based courses have received rave reviews from students. The courses, intended for early-career scientists, emphasize hands-on learning and building adaptive skills. Students can learn about regulatory compliance and clinical trials, working with biotech startups, and translating discoveries into personalized treatments in individualized medicine.

Enhancing the clinical trials process

Adil Bharucha, M.D., M.B.B.S., director of the CCaTS Office of Clinical Trials says that improving the clinical trials process is, “all about our patients….fulfilling their expectations of getting access to newer treatments in a timely manner.” In the last year, CCaTS has introduced two vital improvements that enable clinical trials researchers to work smarter, shortening the time it takes to translate discoveries into life-saving treatments for patients.

  1. Real-time clinical trials dashboard: Mayo Clinic investigators now have access to a study management tool, EpiCenter, which provides a real-time dashboard of all the most important clinical trial study metrics, such as progress toward accrual targets, legal contract status, and financial data. In the past, investigators could only access this information by requesting a report; now, they can access it on demand. Mayo Clinic’s ability to monitor clinical trials research data in this way is unique and an important differentiator for Mayo in the research community.
  2. Accelerated clinical process now available for all studies: In 2016, the Office of Clinical Trials introduced a process designed to expedite study activation for industry-funded clinical trials, reducing the time to activation by nearly two-thirds. This new process was so successful, with 94% of studies meeting targets, that in September 2017, the Office expanded the process to include to non-industry-funded studies. The Office anticipates that the shorter timelines and increased efficiency will not only benefit researchers, but will also benefit research participants, who sometimes find it difficult to remain engaged in long studies

CCaTS helps in every aspect of research

Sundeep Khosla, M.D.

CCaTS connects investigators to the people, resources and information they need to enhance their research at every stage, from discovery science to clinical application and commercialization. In addition, CCaTS helps investigators build and enrich their careers in biomedical science.

“Discovery science is truly moving at a remarkable pace, so this is a particularly important and exciting time for translating these discoveries into new treatments for our patients, which is what CCaTS is all about,” says Sundeep Khosla, M.D., director of CCaTS and principal investigator of the Mayo Clinic Clinical and Translational Science Award.

Visit the CCaTS website to learn more about clinical and translational science activity at Mayo Clinic.

Tags: Center for Clinical and Translational Science, clinical trials, News, Office of Translation to Practice, Progress Updates

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