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August 09, 2013

IOM Review Shows NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program Contributes to Early Stage Advances in Medicine

Recently, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its review of the mission and strategic goals of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program. The IOM committee found that the CTSA program contributes significantly to advancing clinical and translational research, and recommended a number of revisions that could make the program more efficient and effective and could ensure future successes.

Created in 2006, and currently funded by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program aims to facilitate and accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries into new and better preventive and treatment solutions to improve human health.

Leading the CTSA Program Into the Future

IOM: "the CTSA Program has grown from 12 sites to 61 sites at academic health centers and other institutions across the United States. For the past seven years, the efforts have focused primarily on developing academic homes for clinical and translational research at individual CTSA sites." The next phase of the CTSA Program will be establishing an integrated and collaborative national network that will further catalyze the development of new diagnostics, therapeutics, and preventive interventions. The Program will continue to drive innovation in clinical and translational research methods, processes, tools, and resources and leveraging the capabilities of health informatics tools and other research technologies.

However, the IOM noted: "that an updated mission statement and set of strategic goals will also ensure an increased understanding of the program and provide the groundwork for communicating its value."

Engaging in Beneficial Collaborations

A primary function of the CTSA Program is to initiate and foster collaborations across and among researchers and research networks. According to the IOM: "The committee recommends that CTSA Program establish an innovations fund to promote collaborative pilot studies and other innovative initiatives. The activities supported through this fund should engage a combination of CTSA institutions and a variety of possible entities and stakeholders."

Building on Initial Success in Education

IOM: "The committee urges increased flexibility and the implementation of best practices in training and education to attract and retain scholars and trainees. The CTSAs should also create new benchmarks that place value on team-based science, leadership, community engagement, and entrepreneurship."

Engaging the Community

IOM: "The IOM committee concludes that these partnerships with patients, family members, health care providers, and other community stakeholders need to be preserved, nurtured, and expanded. Because involving community in all of the stages of research may be new to many researchers, NCATS and the CTSA Program must guide this effort and provide clear goals and expectations."

Focus on Child Health

The IOM recommended the current CTSA Consortium Child Health Oversight Committee: "should work with NCATS to identify a small number of CTSAs with established expertise and outstanding efforts in child health research. These CTSAs should be designated as leaders in this area, collaborating with other CTSAs to expand their efforts." Additionally, the IOM suggested efforts continue to promote and increase community engagement specific to child health, and raise awareness of opportunities for children and families to participate in research efforts, clearly conveying all information on the risks and potential benefits.

Conclusion

IOM: "The IOM committee finds that the CTSA Program is contributing significantly to advancing clinical and translational research, and would benefit from a number of revisions to make the program more efficient and effective and to ensure its future success."

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