The UW Institute of Translational Health Sciences has been awarded nearly $65 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to continue its groundbreaking work.
The ITHS helps scientists accelerate the translation of research discoveries into practical applications to improve the health of the public. Researchers from all disciplines rely on ITHS for education, resources and services.
For the first time under ITHS, translational researchers from any domain could apply for small grants to collect pilot study data, call a research navigator for help in finding clinical research resources, or engage expert services in biostatistics, biomedical informatics, and preclinical research consulting. New research partnerships and networks have formed in the five-state Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) region.
To help expose researchers to the latest practices in translational science, ITHS held a series of Lifelong Learning Seminars, many of which were webcast live to colleagues in the WWAMI region. The seminars have since been viewed by people from all over the world. In five years, more than 5,000 people have obtained ITHS services, participated in its programs and received thousands of hours of expert consulting and support.
Nora Disis, associate dean for translational science in the UW School of Medicine, leads ITHS. She is a professor of medicine in the Division of Oncology, director of the UW Center for Translational Medicine in Women’s Health, and a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Disis said the new funding will support the next phase of ITHS work, which includes galvanizing research teams around critical issues and looking at how to take novel technologies – for example, the molecular design of proteins -- and make them clinically useful. The changing nature of health research requires investigators to ask different questions and approach studies in new ways, Disis explained.
She added, “We’re trying to tackle major health issues by exploring how to create multi-disciplinary research teams.”
The next phase of ITHS development will also increase community engagement in translational research. In the WWAMI region, ITHS is starting research networks with clinical practices in rural areas, with tribal groups, and with Hispanic organizations that have shown an interest in research. Already some pilot projects have matched community members with a researcher.
“It’s only by bringing in the community that we can be informed about what’s important to them,” Disis said, “I think the Clinical and Translational Science Awards emphasis on the community is a unique aspect that has the capability to transform the way the nation looks at science.