Photo of research scientist Paul Hagerman
UC Davis researcher Paul Hagerman and his work on fragile X syndrome is one of the many efforts that are likely to benefit from the CTSA grant.

The UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center is the academic home for innovative and collaborative medical research conducted at UC Davis Health System and its many institutional and community partners. By cultivating a collaborative scientific environment, the center expedites the translation and integration of science from a variety of disciplines into discoveries and treatments that benefit society.

Established in October 2006 with a $24.8 million Clinical and Translational Science Award  from the National Institutes of Health, the center is transforming how scientists and clinicians conduct and are trained about clinical and translational research so that new treatments reach patients more quickly and efficiently.

UC Davis is among the first 12 institutions in the United States and one of only three in the western region to launch the NIH initiative, which aims to transform clinical research to improve human health. Working in partnership with NIH and the other centers, UC Davis serves as a discovery engine that will improve medical care by applying new scientific advances to real world practice. The goal is to ensure that new approaches to care reach health-care providers, underserved populations, local community organizations and other people who need treatment.

“Translational research is key to advancing our knowledge of disease and for improving patient care,” says Ann Bonham, executive associate dean for research and education at UC Davis Health System. “It is based on collaborative and dynamic interactions among physicians and scientists who ensure that a free flow of information about the current 'science' of disease — gained from studies at the laboratory bench — is equally focused on improving health and meeting the needs of practicing physicians, patients and the community at large. By creating a dynamic environment to foster these collaborations, our new center will accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into solutions for complex medical diseases.”

The NIH established the national consortium because it recognized the need to change the way clinical research is done in the United States.

“The traditional academic model isolates people according to their area of study,” says Lars Berglund, a physician-scientist and assistant dean for clinical research who will serve as director of the UC Davis Center for Clinical and Translational Research. “Scientists conduct research and publish their results in specialty journals, which other specialists in their field read, but with delays inherent in the publication pipeline and the sheer volume of biomedical literature, the sharing of knowledge among fields is a challenge. UC Davis is among the lead institutions working to eliminate these institutional and disciplinary silos so that breakthroughs in the lab can quickly become advances in medical care that reach the populations of patients who need them.”

The complexity of the diseases facing Americans today further underscores the need for institutional change across the country.

“We need interdisciplinary research if we are to develop treatments for diseases, like cancer and diabetes, that are affected by genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors,” says Berglund, who has more than 20 years' experience conducting research at the laboratory bench and patient-focused studies in the areas of vascular disease, HIV and lipoprotein metabolism.

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UC Davis scientists and physicians are working to speed the development and delivery of discoveries to patients.

The new UC Davis center is a place where experts in fields ranging from engineering to population genetics to pediatrics will find it easier to work together to discover better ways of treating and curing disease. These range from having access to streamlined, consolidated and amplified research services, such as grant writing, to having professional support in the use of novel tools and technologies to conduct research and disseminate results to populations in need.

“To improve human health, we need to do things better, as well as do better things,” says Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for human health sciences and medical school dean. “We need to continue discovering new products and methods that improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease and that encourage wellness and quality of life. We need to ensure that the discoveries made are effectively incorporated into clinical care that reaches all patients and all communities, especially poor and ethnic minority populations who too often do not benefit equally from advances in care. With our new center, we aim to create a recognized, highly visible, academic home for clinical and translational research that improves the health of the diverse communities and growing populations we serve in Central and Northern California and beyond.”

In addition to Berglund, the UC Davis Center for Clinical and Translational Research is supported by a team of directors and co-directors, each of whom oversees nine programs and participates in a comprehensive committee structure to implement plans with institutional leadership, faculty, trainees and the community.