A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Research Boom


Let’s Get Clinical

Clinical and Translational Science
Principal Investigators: James Padbury, MD, and Edward Hawrot, PhD

  • $19.5 million in total funding, over five years
  • 10+ jobs created
  • 4 pilot projects to be funded next year
  • 3 institutional partners: Brown University, University of Rhode Island, Care New England, Lifespan, Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island Quality Institute

A Center for Translational Research grant from the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences will establish the Rhode Island Center for Clinical Translational Science (RI-CCTS).

Jim Padbury, MD

Jim Padbury

Edward Hawrot,. PhD

Edward Hawrot

In this statewide collaboration, scientists can deliver the benefits of discoveries more quickly to health care providers and those clinicians can pose more pertinent questions to scientists when they work together closely with broad, deep, and cohesive services and support from their academic medical institutions. That’s the vision for RI CCTS. When a biologist discovers how one protein interacts with another to cause disease and a biochemist synthesizes a compound to block it, those advances still need to be translated into a safe and effective drug therapy to help patients with the disease. But similarly, if an epidemiologist analyzing statewide health records notices that many people who have one disease also seem to have another health problem, the question of how those might be related can be translated back to scientists who can study the molecular biology at play.

The grant will allow RI-CCTS to create the educational and technical infrastructure needed to spur Rhode Island researchers to design, conduct, and analyze more medical studies, including treatment trials, that build on basic research. The center will also expand the access that medical and public health researchers have to population health data by working with the Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI).

To achieve those aims, RI-CCTS will create a robust foundation of services and supports and fund dozens of pilot projects and training grants to catalyze new clinical research, says James Padbury, MD, principal investigator and program director of the new center. “This is an infrastructure grant,” says Padbury, the William and Mary Oh–William and Elsa Zopfi Professor of Pediatrics for Perinatal Research at Alpert Medical School and pediatrician-in-chief at Women & Infants Hospital. Rather than targeting a specific disease area, the grant provides the means to target a wide range of opportunities.

“Nonetheless, with these resources we will be able to support the kinds of advances that have already been taking place in our own research community,” Padbury says. These include new therapies for asthma and muscular dystrophy, technology for cardiac regenerative medicine, methods for pain management, national trials on hormone therapy for menopause, malaria vaccine development, measuring the effect of home-delivered meals on loneliness in the elderly, and identifying the link between the mechanisms underlying preeclampsia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Grant Will Create Seven Cores and Programs:

Administrative Core: Led by Padbury; Ed Hawrot, PhD, associate dean of biology and Alva O. Way University Professor of Medical Science; and Helen Leffers, MS, the core will manage, coordinate, and supervise RI-CCTS operations.

Pilot Projects Program: Led by medical professors and Providence VA Medical Center physicians Sharon Rounds, MD, and Michelle Lally, MD, the core will provide 20 seed grants to multidisciplinary teams of junior researchers and mentors to do new clinical research. At least one project each year will be a clinical trial.

Biomedical Informatics Core: Led by medical science professors Neil Sarkar, PhD, and Elizabeth Chen, PhD, this core will provide expertise, training, and technological resources to allow for big data analyses of medical and genomic data. Sarkar says the grant will accelerate the ability of the Brown Center for Biomedical Informatics to establish a multi-institutional framework for using electronic health data from Lifespan, Care New England, and the Rhode Island Quality Institute to enable novel biomedical research opportunities and to support enhanced patient care.

Clinical Research Design, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics Core: Led by School of Public Health biostatistics professor Chris Schmid, PhD, and Lifespan Biostatistics Core Director Jason Machan ScM’98 PhD’02, this core will create a central “storefront” of statewide resources and services, mentoring and training, and tools and methods development for conducting well-designed clinical research.

Professional Development Core: Led by Ira Wilson, MD, chair of health services, policy, and practice in the School of Public Health, the core will provide Mentored Research Awards to three scholars each year. It will also create training programs and develop a statewide mentoring network for clinical and translational research.

Clinical Research Resources and Facilities: Led by Rhode Island Hospital Clinical Research Center Medical Director and Associate Professor of Medicine Bharat Ramratnam ’86 MD’93, this core will unify the many successful clinical research enterprises among partner institutions (encompassing 700 researchers) into a general Clinical Research Center to share best practices and gain cost efficiency.

Tracking and Evaluation Core: Led by University of Rhode Island pharmacy professor Cynthia Willey-Temkin, PhD, and Anthony Hayward, PhD, adjunct professor of pediatrics at Brown, this core will ensure that the center’s work is aligned with program goals and community needs and uses resources wisely. The core will also track the center’s output and monitor progress and practices.

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