Yale Center for Clinical Investigation Receives $ 63.7 Million Grant
Yale Daily Nwqa
The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences has awarded a $ 63.7 million grant to the Clinical Investigation Center at the Yale School of Medicine, money that will support projects ranging from recruiting study participants to communities of color in the development of drug therapy for type I diabetes.
The grant supports the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, an organization within the School of Medicine dedicated to supporting translational clinical research and training the next generation of clinical researchers. The YCCI has previously received funding from NCATS as part of its five-year award in Clinical and Translational Sciences. This new grant is a renewal of the previous grant.
“The YCCI is an essential resource for our university, not just the medical school,” said John Krystal, Co-Director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation. “This is in part because translational research, taking new research approaches and applying them to patients to develop treatments, has become incredibly more sophisticated than before and requires a huge infrastructure.”
According to Krystal, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation serves three main functions as a “resource” for the entire University.
First, the YCCI is responsible for conducting research in partnership with Yale New Haven Hospital. The grant also supports the Centre’s neuroimaging and genome sequencing laboratories.
Second, the Center facilitates the regulatory and administrative aspect of research by providing support for bioinformatics, clinical data analysis and administrative management of grant applications.
Finally, YCCI supports career development through grants and research training. For example, pilot grant programs help researchers receive monetary compensation to start their careers or move in a new direction.
“No one can claim ownership of the grant and say the grant only supports their work,” said Kevan Herold, deputy director of YCCI.
The full grant will help maintain YCCI’s current infrastructure and support the next generation of translational research. Instead of focusing the grant money on a specific project or lab, the prize will be distributed to maintain the Centre’s current projects and support ongoing investigations, according to Herold.
The YCCI is also unique in its ability to provide support to investigators without corporate intervention. For example, Herold was able to conduct an application for a new investigational drug for type I diabetes without the support of a pharmaceutical company because the YCCI provided the necessary infrastructure. The grant money will help maintain these networks, whether administrative or clinical.
According to Krystal, the grant will help the YCCI continue its work on key health issues and translational research.
“Translational research is about bringing the discoveries of basic science to the bedside,” Herold said. “It has to do with understanding the effects of our treatments on people. ”
Investigators want to know more about the healthcare system and how data generated by hospitals can change treatment plans. YNHH and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System generate clinical data that can help researchers track the effectiveness of certain treatments and monitor the progress of hospital patients.
This data can help achieve another YCCI goal: to advance personalized healthcare. According to Krystal, most research only considers a subset of patients who meet certain criteria for a particular study. However, the average patient is a composite of a wide variety of clinical presentations, and each patient is unique. Researchers want to take into account various factors such as genetics, nutrition or the environment when developing a treatment plan for a particular patient.
As such, YCCI researchers are keen to use data from partner hospitals and new computational approaches such as machine learning to better understand individual patients. It’s not a specific project, but rather a new venture that the grant makes possible, Krystal said.
The grant money will also support initiatives related to healthcare and patients of color. Historically, many research studies have focused on white patients, but the YCCI aims to fill this gap through its community initiatives, according to Krystal.
“We want people who are interested in not only figuring out how to develop a new treatment, but also how to better engage BIPOC patients,” Kyrstal said.
Tesheia Johnson, COO and Deputy Director of YCCI, is one of YCCI’s community programs manager. She led the Cultural Ambassador Program, an organization that aims to advance patient diversity and equity in clinical research.
According to Johnson, the Yale Cultural Ambassadors program began in 2010 after YCCI management reached out to community leaders to discuss the lack of diversity in clinical research at Yale. The partnership includes the African Methodist Episcopal Churches of Connecticut, one of the oldest African-American congregations in the country, and JUNTA, a Latinx advocacy organization.
“The group works directly with researchers through a monthly two-way forum that gives Yale researchers the opportunity to present their work and cultural ambassadors to express the needs of their communities, provide input on clinical study design and to give advice on recruitment. Johnson wrote in an email to the News. “Cultural Ambassadors also work with investigators to create culturally sensitive material and develop other means of accessing hard-to-reach populations.”
Local pastors, Rev. Elvin Clayton and Rev. Dr. Leroy O. Perry Jr. are two of the cultural ambassadors. Through their religious communities, they raise awareness of the importance of patient diversity in clinical trials.
According to Johnson, over the past five years, 61 percent of patients enrolled in studies involving cultural ambassadors have been under-represented minorities. In addition, 97 percent of the under-represented minorities enrolled in the study remained in the study until its completion.
Historically, recruiting and retaining under-represented minorities in clinical research has been a challenge, she said. The partnership between community leaders and the YCCI has dramatically improved these representation and retention issues, according to Johnson.
The success of the Cultural Ambassador Program has led to a Memorandum of Understanding, a formal agreement with the FDA’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. According to Johnson, the partnership between the YCCI and the FDA will help develop collaborations, awareness initiatives and educational programs. The NCATS grant will help continue these outreach efforts.
“Engaging with community leaders is essential in teaching the YCCI and the Yale medical research community, both how to communicate more effectively with our surrounding community and how to conduct research that is more meaningful to our surrounding community. Krystal said. “This gives us the opportunity to disseminate research more widely while nurturing and protecting the interest of participants.”
In addition to the NCATS grants, the YCCI also receives support from the Yale School of Medicine.