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Harvard Medical School Office of Public Affairs

Harvard Medical School receives major NIH grant for galvanizing translational science

Lee Nadler and Steven Freedman
BOSTON, Mass. (May 28, 2008)—Harvard Medical School has been awarded a five-year Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health to launch a center that will transform patient-oriented medical research at the School and create an unprecedented level of unity and communication across the University’s disparate schools and affiliated medical centers. With this award, Harvard will join a network of Clinical and Translational Science Centers (CTSCs) based at academic medical centers around the country.

Harvard is one of 14 institutions to receive a 2008 CTSC grant. The total amount for all 14 institutions is $533 million over five years. Harvard will receive $23.5 million per year for five years. In addition, the Medical School, University, and affiliated hospitals have joined together to contribute an additional $15 million to the center.

The Harvard CTSC will be directed by Lee Nadler, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and HMS, and co-directed by Steven Freedman, HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“This is an extraordinary moment for our University, Harvard Medical School, and all of the hospitals and institutes that make up the Harvard Medical community,” Jeffrey Flier, dean for the Faculty of Medicine, said in an HMS-wide e-mail. “The CTSA application required an unprecedented level of collaboration among faculty and staff across our community, as well as a commitment to a broad and compelling vision of clinical and translational research at Harvard.” 

Flier was instrumental in bringing together leaders from Harvard and its affiliated institutions to plan and design the center. “It's a pan-Harvard effort to bring people to resources—and people to people—to solve problems of human health and to lower current barriers to collaboration,” said Freedman. The design of the CTSC has required an unprecedented partnership between Harvard University and its affiliated medical centers. The center will also span Harvard’s schools, including the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and schools of Medicine, Public Health, Business, and Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“This truly is a signal moment in the history of Harvard Medical School,” says Steven Hyman, provost of Harvard University. “This unique grant, along with the funds being contributed by the University and its affiliated hospitals, are glue that can bond together research efforts across not only Harvard's medical and science communities, but also across the other schools of the University. Thanks to the efforts of Dean Jeff Flier and Lee Nadler, we’ll be able to put together a bench-to-bedside translational and clinical research effort that will make the Harvard medical system bigger and more effective than the sum of its storied parts.”

According to Nadler, the Harvard CTSC will not only build the University-wide infrastructure necessary to support clinical and translational research but will also alter the culture by creating structured and effective methods to connect and support individual investigators and teams of investigators across Harvard. “We will deploy both new and old resources more effectively, lowering the barriers to the initiation and conduct of clinical and translational research within and across institutions,” says Nadler. “We see this as the most immediate opportunity for transformational change at Harvard.” 

The CTSC is a component of a major strategic planning initiative at Harvard, which aims to unite the University’s 11 schools and 18 affiliated hospitals and research institutes to promote cross-disciplinary collaboration. One of the key strategies of the new initiative is to improve communication across different parts of Harvard and to help clinical investigators locate tools, equipment, collaborators, and expertise throughout the Harvard system.

Historically, investigators wishing to do research that involves reaching across disciplines or institutions have faced logistical and administrative obstacles. The CTSC, instead, will actively facilitate this process; a new Internet portal called CONNECTS will help researchers navigate resources at Harvard and includes a “matchmaking” service that will allow researchers to find one another. The portal will also provide a resource called SHRINE (Shared Health Research Information Network), which contains pooled data on research subjects across hospitals, giving scientists the ability to instantly analyze health data from large populations.

In addition to these online tools, the CTSC leadership is recruiting several scientists who will act as research “navigators” that specialize in a particular field. They will act as matchmakers and consultants, helping to guide investigators toward resources and collaborators to help them achieve their goals. The CTSC will also distribute about $8 million per year in pilot grants for early translational and clinical studies, focusing on junior investigators who want to work across disciplines or institutions. Grant recipients will also receive support in managing projects. “This will really allow us to nurture people,” Freedman said.

Without question, the NIH was the external force that inspired Harvard to undertake these efforts. The affiliated hospitals were at risk to lose their General Clinical Research Centers by 2010 if the CTSC was not funded. Harvard would not be eligible for many “Roadmap” grants if the CTSC was not funded. However, it was the leadership of the University and affiliated hospitals that embraced this vision and made this a reality. Shortly after Drew Faust was selected as University president, she selected Jeffrey Flier to become the dean of Harvard Medical School in July 2007. Immediately, Flier made the CTSC his highest priority.

The Harvard CTSC was funded as of May 19, 2008.

Other institutions receiving 2008 grants are:

Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (New York City)
Boston University (Boston)
Indiana University School of Medicine (Indianapolis)
Northwestern University (Chicago and Evanston, Ill.)
The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, Calif.)
Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Tufts University (Boston)
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Ala.)
University of Colorado Denver (Aurora, Colo.)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (San Antonio)
The University of Utah (Salt Lake City)

David Cameron

Harvard Medical School has more than 7,500 full-time faculty working in 11 academic departments located at the School's Boston campus or in one of 47 hospital-based clinical departments at 18 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes. Those affiliates include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Children's Hospital Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Forsyth Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Hebrew SeniorLife, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judge Baker Children's Center, Immune Disease Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and VA Boston Healthcare System.