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Utah Clinical & Translational Science Institute helps research improve health

The new center increases the efficiency and effectiveness of translating discoveries.

The University of Utah announces a new institute on campus: the Utah Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI), formerly known as the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Continuously funded since 2008 as part of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, CTSI is a leader in its field.

The institute designation conveys the expanding role of CTSI within the state of Utah. In addition to strong collaborations across campus, CTSI has collaborative partnerships with Intermountain Healthcare, Utah Department of Health, VA Salt Lake City, Utah Department of Health, U of U Health Regional Affiliates and Community Faces of Utah.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah Health

CTSI Co-Director Rachel Hess.

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“When the center was first awarded funding in 2008, the focus was on the School of Medicine and the health sciences,” said Rachel Hess, CTSI Co-Director with Willard Dere. “More than a decade later, every college on campus can benefit from the CTSI infrastructure. Becoming an institute helps bring visibility to all that we have to offer.”

The institute designation also recognizes CTSI as a key player on the national stage of clinical and translational science. CTSI works closely with the Consortium of Rural States—CTSA awardees across the country with large rural and frontier communities—to advance the understanding of health and disease in these underserved populations. CTSI is leading nationally in the areas of community engagement, informatics, and human genetics, and is gaining recognition for work in implementation science.

These robust relationships—both within the state of Utah and across the nation—help ensure that CTSI achieves its mission to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of translating discoveries to improve human health.

“When clinical research reveals a new or better way to treat a health condition, it can take up to 14 years to get that knowledge out to the masses,” Hess said. “The CTSI helps ensure that the community has access to these discoveries sooner; to go beyond just saying ‘it works’ and actually pushing it from the pre-clinical space to patient access and opportunities.”

CTSI provides infrastructure and collaboration for clinical and translational researchers throughout the region, empowering them to do the following:

  • Conduct innovative research across the translational spectrum
  • Develop and test new methods and processes for translational science
  • Design and deliver innovative services to support the research community
  • Train the next generation of clinical and translational investigators and workforce
  • Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of researchers to support discoveries that improve human health
  • Support research that is effective, efficient, reproducible and compliant

CTSI prides itself on increasing the visibility, volume and quality of translational research through fostering multi-disciplinary research, academic research, clinical research and community-based research. Its demonstrated impact in these areas is evident in the increased number of publications citing CTSI and the successes of its pilot program, including multiplicative growth in associated research funding.

Over the last two years, CTSI has collaborated with University of Utah’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Department of Philosophy to add yet another area of expertise: research ethics. Through this partnership, the CTSI team works closely with a research ethicist, Professor Joyce Havstad, to help weave the practice and philosophy of ethics throughout the entire institute.

“We know that trial and study design have an ethical component—not just from the human subject aspect, but also with regards to the data analytic approach and the sampling paradigm,” Hess said. “We want to ensure that we are mindful of research ethics throughout the entire design and the conduct phases of research. We are not only prepared for the national conversation on research ethics. We are already having the conversation at CTSI.”

Another project currently underway is the Clinical Research Support Office, which is assembling the infrastructure and administrative support to support principal investigators and their research teams across campus as they conduct clinical research.

“A lot of our investigators have been operating in silos, and with that comes a lot of inefficiencies,” Hess said. “We wanted to create a reliable support system that would complement departmental infrastructure to allow researchers to spend the majority of their time and energy on their science.” This new infrastructure will fully launch in 2022, providing even more support.

Countless other projects are underway at CTSI. Beyond growing its existing programs, CTSI also plans to develop the translational science workforce in Utah by expanding beyond the traditional post-graduate education to include undergraduates; elementary, middle and high school students; and community members.

“We have always had a lot of things in the pipeline, and I hope we always will,” Hess said. “Now that we are an institute, we have the visibility that we need to get it all done.”

Learn more about CTSI and the services they offer here.