Accelerating scientific discoveries, building healthy communities

The journey of a health innovation from concept to the real world is often long and difficult. Less than 10 percent of discoveries in the field of medicine reach patients and communities, and those that do take an average of 17 years. This means that many great ideas are never translated into health benefits for the public.

The Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is making the research process faster and easier for Duke investigators by breaking down the traditional barriers that keep health innovations from reaching our communities: knowledge silos, administrative burden, logistics, and a complex regulatory environment.

CTSI connects Duke investigators to funding, project management, datasets, and other critical resources to move their ideas from the lab to the real world. Our faculty and staff experts provide guidance and specialized knowledge at all stages of the research process, linking potential collaborators, facilitating studies and clinical trials, and navigating the administrative and regulatory landscape.

We also help investigators grow their careers and become outstanding translational scientists with a variety of workforce development and early career funding programs.

Together, we can advance scientific discoveries and build healthy communities.

Success Story: Discovery Science

Dr. Donald Lo of Duke and Dr. Al Baldwin of the University of North Carolina used support from the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) to collaborate on a new approach for growing and characterizing human brain tumors in a lab, producing insights that could help fight recurrence of tumors in patients.

“Most scientists are trained in these narrow silos,” Lo said. “With CTSI support, Dr. Baldwin and I could combine our backgrounds to make a new type of cancer screening platform—to get a new look at how to develop cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. This CTSA grant mechanism is really perfect for that.”

Success Story: Clinical Research

Immunolight LLC, a biotech company, collaborated with Duke on a revolutionary cancer therapy that required expertise in chemistry, radiation physics, photonics, and other fields. When the decade-long project struggled with logistics such as tech transfer, management of funds, and lack of scientific direction, the investigators turned to CTSI.

“This was the perfect opportunity to bring in project management and oversight,” said Dr. Barry Myers, Director of Innovation at CTSI.

The therapy is now advancing to clinical trials. “If anything, we got to where we’re at now because of CTSI,” said Wayne Beyer, VP at Immunolight.

Success Story: Trials and Implementation

Longtime collaborators Dr. Cynthia Toth and Dr. Joseph Izatt used CTSA support to create a first-of-its-kind handheld probe for imaging the human retina. Since its introduction in 2012, the device has become the standard of care worldwide for infants and patients under anesthesia.

In 2016, they again used CTSI resources to launch a clinical trial of a more advanced version of the probe. "CTSI funded a device that gets full-volume, three-dimensional images [of the retina]," Izatt said.

"Working at a university and with CTSI is so exciting," said Toth. "We brainstorm with smart people and come up with what we should be doing next. I like looking forward to the next technology and the next idea."

Success Story: Population Health

Dr. Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda of the Duke School of Nursing used CTSI’s network of community engagement experts to hone her proposal for a $3.4 million NIH grant to study health disparities in Latino immigrants.

“My colleagues in the School of Nursing were very good about letting me know about the resources that are available through CTSI,” she said. “I was drawn to CTSI’s Community Engagement Core and started participating in their activities. My peers challenged me to be strategic about the priorities of funders, and the grant that was funded is aligned with the work I’m really interested in.”

Redefining Research

The Duke CTSI is committed to moving beyond traditional medical research and education into projects that apply twenty-first century knowledge and technology to improving health.

A key issue facing healthcare research is the rising use of electronic health records and other big data, which offer new opportunities to redefine research. Faculty and staff at the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) have taken a leading role in developing the NIH Collaboratory, an effort funded by the NIH Common Fund to create a collaborative research infrastructure that stretches across the nation.  DCRI staff also supports the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet), a large, highly representative national network for conducting clinical outcomes research.  

The CTSI is also redefining research by addressing the pressing need for a healthcare workforce that understands the importance of translational medicine. Programs such as the Duke Clinical Research Undergraduate Experience (dCRUE), introduce Duke students to research as a career opportunity, while others, such as the CTSA-funded KL2 program, assist junior faculty who need time and money to focus on translational research. Other programs include a Master of Management in Clinical Informatics, the Clinical Research Training Program (a partnership with the NIH), a Regulatory Affairs Training Program, and ongoing professional training for clinical research staff through the Duke Office of Clinical Research.