A consortium of the five University of California medical campuses at Los Angeles, Davis, Irvine, San Diego and San Francisco has been awarded a $12 million grant and designated one of three Centers for Accelerated Innovations by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
The award, among the first of its kind from the NHLBI, recognizes the UC's potential to translate its leading-edge discoveries into innovative products that benefit patients with heart, lung and blood diseases.
The University of California Center for Accelerated Innovation (UC CAI), whose administration will be based at UCLA, will leverage the expertise and resources of the five medical campuses and use industrial product-development practices to incubate technologies with high commercial potential. The five campuses, which accounted for 7 percent of NHLBI grant funding in fiscal year 2012, provide a rich research base to support a diverse pipeline of diagnostics, devices, therapeutics and tools.
The UC CAI has four goals:
  • To engage UC heart, lung and blood disease innovators in entrepreneurism through a comprehensive education, training and mentorship program.
  • To solicit and select technologies with high commercial potential that align with the NHLBI's mission and address unmet medical needs or significant scientific opportunity.
  • To incubate the UC's most promising technologies in accordance with industry requirements in order to facilitate their transition to commercial products that improve patient care and enhance health.
  • To create a high-performing, sustainable infrastructure that will serve as a model to academic research centers.
The UC Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration and Development (UC BRAID), which links the five medical campuses to facilitate contracting, data sharing, regulatory oversight and other activities, will oversee UC CAI.
"The launch of this program is a remarkable example of inter-institutional collaboration," said Dr. Gary Firestein, director of UC San Diego's Clinical and Translational Research Institute and chair of UC BRAID. "The leaders of engineering, business and medical schools across the five campuses developed a shared vision and worked with UC BRAID to create an extraordinary proposal. The new resources will dramatically accelerate the development of novel diagnostics, therapies and devices discovered at the University of California."
The new center will be closely integrated with the translational research institutes and centers on each campus funded by Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA). The CTSA-funded centers and institutes will provide full access to research resources on each campus, including clinical research facilities and labs, research cores, biostatistical support, bioinformatics, pilot funding, regulatory consultations, and research education and training.
In June 2011, UCLA and several community partners received a five-year CTSA award of $81.3 million to establish the Clinical and Translational Science Institute on the Westwood campus.
The UC CAI also will have access to local biomedical industry organizations, health care agencies, clinical networks, public health departments, nonprofit research institutes, venture capitalists, investors and manufacturers of medical devices, diagnostic equipment and pharmaceuticals — all of whom have developed close interactions with CTSA-funded institutes and centers.
"This is an excellent example of what we can accomplish through our CTSAs by collaborating across University of California campuses and disciplines for effective translation of our discoveries to products that will help our patients," said Dr. Steven Dubinett, director of the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
In addition to the considerable support from the CTSAs, each campus will bring its own unique expertise and resources.
Innovators can access resources across all five campuses, including UCLA's tissue array and translational pathology cores; UC San Diego's biomarker and cardiovascular physiology core; UC San Francisco's small molecule discovery center and airway clinical research center; UC Irvine's mechanical testing, microscopy and cell and tissue cores specifically for cardiovascular technology; and UC Davis' animal research center.
A skills-development program will provide training and education in entrepreneurism and coordinated access to expert mentors. This educational training will help bridge the gap for scientists who lack an understanding of the commercialization potential of their discoveries.
"By aligning our efforts, researchers will have broad access to an even broader array of research cores and education programs," said Dr. Lars Berglund, director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center. "This collaboration will offer robust internship programs, expanded partnerships with outside private and public organizations, and new curricular offerings to enrich and complement our already innovative approaches, while not detracting from or prolonging the existing training time."
Faculty with experience in heart, lung and blood diseases will be available to innovators for consultations. Project managers with experience in industry and academia will ensure technologies developed by the center meet timelines and benchmarks.
"We have worked strategically with our collaborators to ensure a nimble, efficient and transparent project-management effort," said Dr. Dan Cooper, director of the UC Irvine Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. "We have embedded mechanisms to ensure that specific goals for each project are established and timelines are clear. We will work across BRAID to identify delays and obstacles and deal with them as rapidly as possible."
"Each of the UCs is a powerhouse, but together they are unstoppable," said Dr. Clay Johnston, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UC San Francisco. "There is so much more we can do in collaboration, and UC BRAID is helping us realize that."
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