Public release date: 27-Oct-2009
Contact: Randi Triant
617-636-9845
Tufts University, Health Sciences

Tufts CTSI and Tufts University receive 4 NIH supplemental grant awards

The Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Tufts University today announced they are the recipients of four supplemental grant awards from the National Institutes of Health. These new awards, totaling approximately $1.73 million, are supplements to the original Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) grant, UL1 RR025752 that Tufts University received in 2008 from the National Center for Research Resources.

“Community Engagement Research” is a two-year project that will expand the scope of Tufts CTSI’s current community engagement program by enhancing the ability of community partners to participate more effectively in the development of research plans and outcomes. Begun in September 2009, the project has already established an alliance between the Tufts CTSI, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, and two pivotal community partners, the Center for Community Health Education, Research, and Service (CCHERS) and the Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health (ISG/H). This alliance is creating a curriculum and evaluation for a self-study and face-to-face program entitled “Fostering Community Partners in Translational Research (FCPTR)” that will target community agencies and health centers. The Program Director is Laurel Leslie, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

“Improving BPD Predictors and Outcomes for Clinical Trials” builds on prior landmark research that identified a constellation of signs and symptoms in high risk newborns to accurately define bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and predict the subsequent development of chronic respiratory morbidity (CRM) later in childhood and adolescence. While treatment with recombinant human superoxide dismutase to premature newborns has been proven to have a 55% reduction in CRM compared to placebo controls, current definitions of BPD may be unreliable predictors of CRM and a more robust reduction in CRM is needed. Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that converts superoxide radicals (highly reactive oxygen molecules produced during metabolism and capable of damaging body tissues) into less toxic agents. This one-year study is a prospective, longitudinal, observational study in 85 preterm infants 24-29 weeks gestation. The Program Director is Jonathan Davis, MD, Chief of Newborn Medicine, The Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Program Director at the Clinical and Translational Research Center, and Professor of Pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine. Partners in this study include Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard University), Beth Israel Hospital (Harvard University), Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Ohio State), and King’s College in London.

“Searching for Persistence of Infection in Lyme Disease” is a highly innovative Bench-to- Bedside research project that could have an extraordinarily significant impact on the field of Lyme disease. Although antibiotic therapy is clinically effective in treating the symptoms of Lyme disease for most patients early in the course of disease, a significant number of patients who receive therapy report persistent symptoms. A range of theories have been proposed for why this occurs. Moreover, commonly available tests for human Lyme disease are not able to determine persistent infection after antibiotic therapy. Program Director, Linden Hu, MD (Associate Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine and Associate Professor of Microbiology, Sackler School of Biomedical Graduate Sciences) has begun an unconventional study examining whether xenodiagnosis (the feeding of uninfected Ixodes ticks on infected animals) can be used to determine when persistent infection occurs in humans. Xenodiagnosis has been used for other difficult to diagnose diseases such as Chagas disease and can sometimes definitively identify the presence of an organism in animals where other techniques cannot. Whether xenodiagnosis is effective in humans is unknown. This two-year project seeks to test the utility of xenodiagnosis for identifying persistence of B. burgdorferi, the spirochetal bacteria that cause Lyme disease, after antibiotic treatment of the disease. Dr. Linden’s team will test subjects with elevated C6 antibody levels or persistent symptoms after antibiotic therapy and patients with Lyme arthritis. Evidence that B. burgdorferi can be identified by xenodiagnosis after antibiotic therapy in subjects with continued symptoms would significantly change the current paradigm for potential mechanisms of disease and provide researchers and clinicians with a novel tool for identifying patients with persistent infection.

Tufts CTSI currently has a Pilot Studies Program that funds new interdisciplinary research teams, seeds novel ideas, and provides the means to acquire necessary preliminary data for larger, multi-year grant applications. A new supplemental project, The Pilot Project Mechanism, is led by Susan K. Parsons, MD, MRP, Director, The Health Institute, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies and Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Amy Yee, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, Sackler School of Biomedical Graduate Sciences. This two-year project expands the current program to influence research not just within the Tufts enterprise, but also throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and into New England via Tufts CTSI’s forty-three collaborating partners by soliciting interinstitutional and multidisciplinary applications. Many of the identified programs will hire and support undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, thereby creating jobs throughout New England and also increasing the pipeline for translational researchers.

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About Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI)

Tufts CTSI was established in August 2008 with Grant Number UL1 RR025752 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), National Institutes of Health (NIH). A collaboration of organizations, founded by Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University, Tufts CTSI accelerates the translation of laboratory research into clinical use, medical practice and health policy. It connects people to research resources, consultation, and education, and fosters collaboration with scholars of all disciplines and with community members, with the ultimate goal of improving the health of the public. Website: www.tuftsctsi.org.

About NCRR and the CTSA Consortium

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides laboratory scientists and clinical researchers with the tools and training they need to understand, detect, treat, and prevent a wide range of diseases. NCRR supports all aspects of clinical and translational research, connecting researchers, patients, and communities across the nation. Through programs such as the Clinical and Translational Science Awards, NCRR brings together innovative research teams and equips them with essential tools and critical resources needed to tackle the nation’s complex health problems.

About the NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people’s health and save lives, NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent disease as well as the causes, treatments, and even cures for common and rare diseases. Composed of 27 Institutes and Centers, the NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.