Dear Faculty, Staff and Students of the School of Medicine,
I am pleased to share that the Case Western Reserve University Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative (CTSC) in the School of Medicine has received a $56.3M seven-year grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The funding—building upon prior support of nearly $175M since 2007 as part of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program, a national network of over 60 medical research institutions working together to improve the process of translational research to deliver more treatments to more patients more quickly—will continue to support initiatives to catalyze high-quality clinical and translational science and transformative research to positively impact the health of those in Northern Ohio and beyond.
The collaborative brings together leading biomedical institutions in Northern Ohio to accelerate the movement of discoveries made in research laboratories and clinical trials directly into treatments and interventions that benefit patients, streamline clinical research processes and train the next generation of clinical and translational researchers.
New leadership, expansion of the collaborative beyond the greater Cleveland area into Northern Ohio and a strategic focus on health equity will shape CTSC in its next chapter.
Over the past eight years, Michael W. Konstan, MD, has led the collaborative, tirelessly serving as vice dean for translational research at the School of Medicine and as the CTSC's principal investigator. His stewardship and leadership have been instrumental in developing collaborative initiatives that have moved some of the most promising research forward. This includes markedly accelerating the process of translational science and tripling the number of biomedical companies spun out annually from CWRU, including drugs, rehabilitation devices and point-of-care diagnostic testing devices now in use in resource-limited areas.
In March 2022, Grace McComsey, MD, succeeded Dr. Konstan as the CTSC principal investigator and led the renewal application as the single PI. I am pleased to share that she has been appointed vice dean for clinical and translational research. Dr. McComsey, a professor of pediatrics and medicine, has held a number of leadership roles and most recently served as the vice president of research and associate chief scientific officer at University Hospitals. She also leads the Clinical Research Center at University Hospitals, the central infrastructure for clinical research within the health system. For more than a decade, she had also served as the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. She served as principal investigator on more than 15 grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), focusing on understanding heightened inflammation and immune activation and its effect on metabolic and cardiovascular comorbidities in adults and children living with HIV. Dr. McComsey has also been a leader in COVID-19 research and is the CWRU Hub PI in the NIH’s RECOVER initiative (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery), the only RECOVER hub in Ohio.
Recently, Dr. McComsey shared with me her thoughts on the future of the CTSC.
"When I think about research, I think about improving every life, regardless of demographics, geography, or disease type,” she said. “I think of giving hope to those who have diseases without available therapies. All research is valuable, from basic lab to translational and clinical, to community research. I look forward to my new role as vice dean and will work hard to enhance innovation and impact within the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine while connecting school researchers to other schools across the university and our clinical partners."
Since its inception, the CTSC has included Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, University Hospitals and the Louis Stokes Veterans Administration Medical Center. In this new grant cycle, the collaborative is expanding beyond the Cleveland area and becoming the CTSC of Northern Ohio with the addition of two new partner institutions—the University of Toledo and Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). The new partners bring expanded opportunities to maximize workforce development in rural medicine and vulnerable populations and adds to our world-class team of researchers dedicated to bringing more treatment to more people more quickly.
As the CTSC enters its next chapter, health equity takes center stage. The theme of this new grant cycle—Catalyzing Linkages to Equity in Health (CLE Health)—reflects a dedication to advancing health equity research. Evidence shows poor health outcomes are linked to social, economic, and environmental factors—clearly evident in the stark differences in life expectancy, infant mortality and rates of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer for those living in communities across our region. Minority groups are often underrepresented in clinical trials, creating insufficient data for understanding the effectiveness or safety of new drugs, procedures, or health interventions for different populations, which compounds disparities. To change the current trajectory of health disparities and improve health, the CTSC has redirected its focus and goals around our community to identify and address fundamental barriers to recruiting underrepresented groups in clinical research.
The award also includes funding for several grants which complement the CTSC program for combined total funding of $6M.
- T32 Postdoctoral Research Training Grant: "CTSA Postdoctoral T32 at Case Western Reserve University" (PI: Dr. James Spilsbury)
- R25 Research Education Grants Programs: " An Intensive Summer Education Program in Translational Research for Underrepresented Students (INSPIRE-US)" (PIs: Drs. Ronald Hickman and J. Daryl Thornton)
- RC2 High Impact Specialized Innovation Programs in Clinical and Translational Science: "Systems Marketing Analysis for Research Translation (SMART) Innovation Program" (PIs: Drs. Peter Hovmand and Brian Biroscak)
Over the past 15 years, the CTSC has developed the next generation of researchers who are ready to solve some of the most pressing healthcare needs of our time. The path to discovery has been streamlined by building partnerships among industry and community partners and enhancing collaborations, resulting in many successful entrepreneurial startups.
As Dr. McComsey emphasizes, “The CTSC is about improving health through collaborations; there is a wealth of talent at CWRU and our six amazing clinical partners. We need to join our amazing complementary expertise to enhance and expedite innovation and educate and build the next generation of researchers and research professionals. We all thrive on one goal—improving health for our local communities and beyond.”
In her new role, Dr. McComsey will also helm the new Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which brings together under one umbrella the CTSC and the community programs currently under the Center for Clinical Investigation. The future for the CTSC is bright, and the collaborative is poised to be a catalyst for innovation and improve the health of those in Northern Ohio and beyond, with health equity interwoven as its guiding principle.
Please join me in thanking Dr. Konstan for his steadfast leadership, applauding Dr. McComsey and her team for their hard work in securing this grant, and congratulating Dr. McComsey on her new role as vice dean for clinical and translational research and the director of the new Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Stan Gerson, MD
Dean and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs
School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University