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University takes part in research initiative

Liz O'Donnell | Friday, March 20, 2009

Notre Dame was recently accepted as a partner in the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (ICTSI), a medical research initiative that aims to transform medical discoveries into practical applications like improved patient care and business opportunities.

The University joined the program to partner with other major research universities in Indiana to work on cutting-edge research said Melanie E. DeFord, director of operations for Centers, Institutes and Special Research Projects at Notre Dame.

“This collaboration provides us a vehicle with which to pair our basic researchers with translational and clinical researchers,” DeFord said.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a five-year Clinical and Translational Science Award to the Indiana University School of Medicine in May of last year to fund the activities of ICTSI at both Indiana University and Purdue University. Notre Dame has been an active member since November 2008.

“The NIH strategic plans increasingly encourage collaborations of basic researchers, translational researchers and clinicians and also values team science and multi-investigator awards,” DeFord said.

The ICTSI is one of only 38 academic health centers in the country funded by this award.

“We are very happy to be a part of this consortium and to be a part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research,” DeFord said. “It should be a win-win situation for all of us.”

The ICTSI provides the framework for basic scientists, translational scientists and clinicians to do research together.

“The idea is to move ideas from the bench to the bedside more smoothly and quickly,” DeFord said. “The Institute also includes commercial partners, and this will enable projects and devices to get to market more efficiently,” DeFord said.

By joining this initiative, Notre Dame hopes to better address biomedical issues.

“It will enable all of us to obtain different perspectives and approach serious research questions from various angles,” DeFord said.

The membership enables researchers from the University in areas such as the College of Engineering’s biomechanics and biomaterials groups, the Eck Institute for Global Health, the Keck Center for Transgene Research and the new Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute the ability to move their work into a clinical setting.

“A majority of the clinical research in the state takes place in Indianapolis,” DeFord said. “However, there is clinical research going on here in South Bend.”

DeFord said another goal of the initiative is to allow researchers to communicate and eventually collaborate on specific projects.

“A goal of the Institute is to bring together our basic researchers with clinical faculty,” DeFord said. “It can also pair clinical faculty in our community with basic researchers here or at one of the other institutions.”

The collaborations will allow members of the Notre Dame research community to expand their work.

“These collaborations may lead to increased opportunities to obtain research funding and realization of their research as a potential patient therapy or device,” DeFord said. “We also now have access to all the research cores and resources.”

The membership in the ICTSI will not hinder Notre Dame researchers from partnering with institutions that are not members.

“Our membership in the ICTSI is not exclusive and is certainly not intended to replace any other collaborations,” DeFord said.

The ICTSI Web site provides extensive information on funding opportunities, clinical trial opportunities and research core resource offerings.

University faculty are encouraged to go to the site to explore opportunities. They have the ability to customize the site using their University net ID and password.

Initially, graduate students that have a faculty mentor that conducts research and that has the capability to become or partner with translational and/or clinical research will have the opportunity to participate in the initiative.

DeFord said, however, that they are in the process of creating opportunities for undergraduate students as well.