A 2003 article in The American Journal of Medicine revealed a surprising problem with scientific research. Of more than 100 “groundbreaking” studies conducted in the early 1970s, only five resulted in actual treatments for patients. Clearly there is a gap between scientific discovery and clinical treatment. This is something that the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Kentucky hopes to remedy. Established in 2006, the CCTS works to bridge the gap between each step of the clinical research process by bringing together people in different research, medical, and drug development fields.
Dr. Philip Kern is an endocrinologist and Director of the Barnstable Brown Kentucky Diabetes and Obesity Center. He says that while scientific studies on animals can be useful, “unless you start translating it to humans, you’re only going to go so far.” But how to move from one to the other? While many universities have clinicians, pharmacologists, medical schools, research labs and more, there has traditionally been little interaction between the groups. Kern asks, “Why don’t we do a better job of translating basic science and its results into actual human-based research and, ultimately, treatments?”
The National Institutes of Health and Congress recognized the problem. The NIH offered Clinical Science Translation Awards, grants for universities to work on crossing the bridges between basic science, clinical discovery, and eventually treatments. The CCTS is the recipient of one such award; funding began in 2011. Response within the university has been positive, but there will be hurdles to overcome as researchers and doctors alike are encouraged to go beyond their comfort zones. “You are trying to change a mindset and change a culture. The whole paradigm is being shifted,” Kern says.
The Center can help by putting people in touch with potential collaborators to help move a project to the next step. They also offer assistance with the massive bureaucracy of regulatory boards, both institutional and federal. A pilot grant program is available, along with additional educational and training opportunities. There is also now a Ph.D. program in Clinical and Translation Science, allowing for the next generation of research scientists and clinicians to be better versed in the collaborative process, more able to cross boundaries.
The Center for Clinical and Translational Science is partnered with a number of regional universities and health centers. To learn more about their ongoing projects, visit www.ccts.uky.edu.
Article cited: Crowley Jr, W. F. (2003). Translation of basic research into useful treatments: how often does it occur? The American Journal of Medicine, 114(6), 503-505.
By Fiona Young-Brown, Editor, KY Doc Magazine