Statewide research partnership receives nearly $50 million grant from National Institutes of Health

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Auburn University researchers will continue to reap the benefits of being a part of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science as the center’s funding from the National Institutes of Health has been renewed for another five years.

The Center for Clinical and Translational Science, or CCTS, was established in 2008 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to nurture research locally, regionally and nationally through partnerships with academic health centers, research institutes and universities.

Auburn University is a member of the CCTS partner network, which comprises 11 academic and scientific research institutions in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The network works to accelerate the process of translating laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, or moving research from bench to bedside, facilitates training of the next generation of clinical and translational researchers and engages communities in clinical research efforts.

Tom Denney, the Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Donnellan and Family Endowed Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Auburn MRI Research Center, said the network also assists in commercializing research. For instance, Allan David, the John W. Brown Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, received assistance from the network to produce a safer contrast agent for MRIs.

The network’s common purpose is to reduce the burden of cardiometabolic, vascular and cancer-related diseases and health disparities that disproportionately affect the underserved minority and special populations in the Deep South.

“The vision of the CCTS is to reduce health disparities in diseases disproportionately represented within the Deep South as we accelerate discovery to improve human health,” said Dr. Robert Kimberly, the Howard Holley Professor, senior associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research at the UAB School of Medicine and CCTS director. “Our partner network works to ensure that our research and training efforts serve the special populations in our region while maximizing collaborative synergies in translational research to advance fundamental and clinical discovery through to application to human health and health care delivery.”

Currently, Auburn faculty from the Harrison School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing, College of Veterinary Medicine and Samuel Ginn College of Engineering participate in the network. Denney said graduate students and faculty at Auburn have received grants and training as a result of the partnership.

As part of the network, faculty at partner institutions, including UAB, have come to Auburn to use the 7T MRI scanner at the Auburn Research Park.

“The CCTS partner network helps Auburn University take its biomedical research programs to the next level by connecting Auburn with other network partners, providing pilot grants and training opportunities and assistance with writing grant applications,” said Denney.

The renewed funding will cover three linked grants, totaling nearly $50 million over five years, to support clinical and translational research, mentored career development and pre-doctoral training. Grants are from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, or NCATS, which is part of NIH. Auburn’s portion is nearly $700,000 over five years.

“UAB’s CCTS is translating observations in the laboratory, clinic and community into interventions that improve the health of our citizens and our society overall,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “We are proud of the contributions our CCTS and its partner network are making to bring more new treatments to more patients more quickly than ever before.”

The CCTS has secured more than $123 million in competitive federal funding, including 14 supplemental awards, and has leveraged multiple multi-institutional grants across the network. It has granted 62 pilot awards, producing nearly 1,500 publications and an overall return on investment of 49:1 since 2008.

“NIH’s decision to continue supporting translational science efforts at UAB is a clear indication of the excellent work taking place at CCTS,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. “Advancing biomedical research to find treatments and cures for patients is of the utmost importance, and I am proud UAB is receiving additional funding to further this cause. I look forward to continuing to work with UAB, NIH and my colleagues to improve medical services in Alabama and throughout the nation.” 

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.