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Clinical and Translational Science Center

Clinical and Translational Science Center

S P O T L I G H T  O N  C O L L A B O R A T I O N

NeuroNEXT: Research acceleration through collaboration

A LACK OF COLLABORATORS, equipment or study participants can mean the end of a study before it even gets started. But a new initiative – the National Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT) – gives investigators working on proposals and studies for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) access to a collaborative research network to facilitate the process.

Established by NINDS, NeuroNEXT fosters partnerships with academia, private foundations and industry to assess promising new therapies, increase the efficiency of clinical trials before embarking on larger studies and respond quickly as new research opportunities arise. The network includes 25 institutions with major neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation clinical trials under way. Earlier this year, UC Davis became one of only four institutions on the West Coast to participate in the network.

Loosely based on the cooperative oncology group model supported by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NeuroNEXT created a group of like-minded investigators with similar patient populations who are interested in clinical research. Because not every individual investigator may have access to the full range of expertise, or to all of the logistical or patient resources necessary to conduct a clinical trial, the consortium helps fill in the gaps.

NeuroNEXT enables investigators to vet their study protocol design with knowledgeable colleagues, gather information to help them advance the more promising projects, develop data collection and data capture tools for use across multiple sites, and conduct scientific reviews in preparation for NIH grant submission.
According to Erik Henricson, UC Davis NeuroNEXT operations director and an associate director of clinical research in the UC Davis Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, NeuroNEXT enables researchers to conduct or participate in early-phase clinical trials that would be difficult or impossible to conduct on their own. Resource sharing also helps streamline efforts and reduce redundancies.
 
“Suppose a researcher needs 50 patients to conduct a safety trial of an investigational drug but has only five patients who might be candidates. The network can link the researcher with investigators at other institutions who are willing to collaborate on the study using the same protocol,” he said. “The ability to leverage patient populations and expertise across the country to conduct studies that individual investigators might find too daunting or that might be logistically impossible to conduct at a single site is a tremendous advantage to investigators and to the scientific community nationwide.”
 
NeuroNEXT is available for researchers from all disciplines who are focused on a neurological disease or condition and who plan to submit grant proposals to NINDS. “If you have an idea for a biomarker or an early-phase clinical trial in any of the diseases that NINDS covers, they are willing to hear it, regardless of your medical specialty. It could be a trauma project for individuals with head injury or a neonatal intensivist’s study of stroke in newborns. If it is related to the brain or the neurological or neuromuscular systems, it is fair game,” Henricson said.
 
UC Davis participates in NeuroNEXT through a cooperative agreement with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Center for Neuroscience, MIND Institute, and Departments of Neurology and Neurological Surgery. Randev Sandhu, UC Davis NeuroNEXT coordinator, encourages investigators to take advantage of the services offered by the CTSC to support their research efforts.
 
“The CTSC enables investigators to leverage support in research design, implementation and clinical trials assis­tance,” said Sandhu. “NeuroNEXT can play an important role in the transla­tion of research into clinical practice by providing investigators an avenue to conduct larger Phase II, safety-oriented studies. It can also help investigators participate in the acceleration of trials and involve participation of junior faculty scholars, which has the poten­tial for leading to more advanced grant opportunities.”
 
Contact Randev Sandhu at randev. sandhu@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu or visit http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/pmr/research/neuronext.html  for more information about NeuroNEXT and proposal submissions