Weill Cornell Medicine has received a $45.3 million renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program to continue funding its multi-institutional Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) through 2022.
First supported by the NIH in 2007 with a $49.6 million grant – the largest federal grant ever made to Weill Cornell Medicine – and awarded a renewal grant of the same amount five years later, the CTSC, led by program director and principal investigator Dr. Julianne Imperato-McGinley, is considered a leader in national efforts to bring separate institutions together and remove barriers that typically separate investigators and physicians by discipline. As a result, investigators can forge nontraditional collaborations and develop innovative, cross-disciplinary research projects that, with educational initiatives and community health programs, fuel the CTSC’s mission to improve the translational research process so treatments and preventive interventions reach patients more quickly.
“The Clinical and Translational Science Center exemplifies how institutions can come together, despite being in different places and having different leaders and institutional cultures, to work on innovative collaborations that benefit patients,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “I’m proud of Dr. Imperato-McGinley and the CTSC team, as they continue to push the boundaries of translational research, and thankful for the NIH’s continued support of this important effort.”
“We are delighted to receive this continued support from the NIH, and grateful that we can continue funding innovative, interdisciplinary medical research, training early-career scientists and physicians, and involving local partners in community research projects that are vital to New Yorkers,” said Imperato-McGinley, who is also associate dean for translational research and education, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Distinguished Professor of Endocrinology in Medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “We’re excited to continue this important work and to broaden our community efforts so that New Yorkers are involved in every step of the research process. We will also expand our educational initiatives and funnel more funding toward entrepreneurial projects that use new technologies, for the ultimate benefit of patients.”
Weill Cornell Medicine’s CTSC, a multi-institutional consortium that includes Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hospital for Special Surgery, Hunter College’s Center for Translational and Basic Research and its School of Nursing, and Cornell University’s Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Cornell University Cooperative Extension, among other institutions. It is one of more than 60 federally supported programs nationwide that similarly prioritize collaboration, mentorship and community participation.
In the last decade, Weill Cornell Medicine’s CTSC has assisted at least 3,200 investigators, awarding $10.3 million in seed grants to cross-disciplinary teams to fund high-risk pilot studies related to diseases including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Investigators later obtained nearly $20 million in outside funding to continue their research.
It has also hosted 330 seminars and workshops, with topics spanning how to write a winning grant or work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; partnered with 120 New York City-based community organizations, providing preventive health services to people in medically underserved communities; and trained and mentored 1,200 early-career scientists.
Since its founding a decade ago, CTSC has focused on advancing translational science discoveries across a broad spectrum of clinical disciplines and diseases. Some of the CTSC’s most successful research projects have received larger NIH or Department of Defense grants and advanced into clinical trials. Other projects have sparked the formation of biomedical startup companies or expanded into broader research centers.
The CTSC’s achievements are also exemplified in its educational and community-based efforts, including a program that uses theater to teach hundreds of faculty members and New Yorkers about research ethics, and another, called “Heart to Heart,” that provides free health screenings and physician consultations to people in medically underserved communities.
The CTSC has recently worked to strengthen bonds between its investigators. For instance, some Hunter College investigators now work in labs in Weill Cornell Medicine’s Belfer Research Building, where the public institution purchased space, and next year, the Hunter College School of Nursing will relocate to York Avenue to be closer to Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Hospital for Special Surgery.
In the next five years, the CTSC will increase its focus on creativity and entrepreneurship, Imperato-McGinley said, with the use of 3-D printers at the heart of that strategy. The technology offers an easier way for investigators to create medical device prototypes, anatomical models, surgical training models and patient education tools than what was available in the past. It also drives collaborations between Weill Cornell Medicine clinicians and scientists from Cornell Tech, the Cornell Nanotechnology Center and Cornell Engineering.
The CTSC is currently awarding grants to investigators seeking to use the printers to create medical devices that have the potential to improve health outcomes. Center leaders intend to award more of these grants in the coming years.
The CTSC award is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Anne Machalinski is a freelance writer for Weill Cornell Medicine.