Every month, the CTSI Stories Blog will post excerpts from ongoing conversations with the institute’s co-directors. This month, Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D. discusses a new funding opportunity that encourages investigators to streamline the process of translating initial discoveries into patient care in collaboration with other CTSA institutions.
What is the new Collaborative Innovation Award?
This award was announced by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) last spring. Part of the mission of NCATS is to accelerate clinical and translational research. That means figuring out ways to move research from initial discoveries into patient care. This new award is designed to fund research that removes a barrier to advancing research from one phase to another. For example, a researcher discovers a new potential therapy for cancer. The researcher has tested it in the lab and wants to move it to a preclinical trial. There are many barriers to making that leap. These awards encourage investigators to find innovative ways to minimize those barriers and streamline that process.
What sorts of projects are they hoping to fund?
NCATS is interested in a broad range of research topics. These awards might fund projects aimed at educating people to become research coordinators to combat the current labor shortage in clinical and translational research. Aiding research volunteer enrollment is also an area of interest. Some examples are: improving clinical trial enrollment by using informatics to help identify people with rare diseases and ensure that the study participants reflect the makeup of the whole community, or using internet-based research consent forms to enroll volunteers in clinical trials.
How do these awards foster collaboration?
There is a very large move at NCATS to encourage scientific team formation and center collaboration across clinical research in this country. Part of the reason is that we are stronger together as research centers than we are individually in terms of being able to enroll large numbers of individuals for research studies. However, one barrier addressed by these awards is that we are sometimes weaker together because we don’t have standardized methods and processes.
That is why NCATS is changing the way it funds research. There are a number of funding opportunities now that require collaboration between three or more Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) hubs and at least one outside collaborator. The goal is for the CTSA network to really function like an integrated network – not as a bunch of institutions doing their own thing.
Have we had any success obtaining any of these grants?
These grants were just created last year. The first round of full applications will be reviewed in the fall, and we will know if any were funded in December. So far, we have written letters of collaboration and support for 12 pre-applications and 3 full applications ranging from establishing an education program for regulatory science to assessing the effectiveness of KL2 Mentored Career Development Awards and creating a new individual development program for those awards. These are in partnerships with institutions that span the country. We’re really excited about these applications – they give us a formal way of collaborating with other centers.
Who can apply?
These grants can be submitted by any investigator at an institution that currently has a funded CTSA, like the University of Rochester. All that an investigator needs is a letter of support from their CTSA.
How can investigators apply?
Applications for Collaborative Innovation Awards can be submitted three times a year and involve a two-step process. The six-page pre-application, called X02, is reviewed like a normal grant. Based on the reviews, the program officer either encourages or discourages you from submitting a full application, or U01.
The U01 is a standard twelve page NIH grant application that includes a budget, a list of personnel, and all of the usual paperwork that goes with a grant. These grants can be $500,000 – $1 million per year for up to 5 year grant period – so, pretty big awards!
What advice do you have for investigators who are interested in applying?
We encourage investigators who are thinking about putting in applications to talk to us early. The CTSI can help them find partners at other CTSA institutions and help them take full advantage of the available resources for their studies.
Anyone who would like more information about these awards should contact Carrie Dykes, Ph.D., CTSI Research Engagement Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, (585) 275-0736.