The new Clinical and Translational Science Award will engage Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic with the University of Virginia and Inova Health System to build infrastructure and programs to integrate the biomedical research enterprises, ultimately improving health care throughout the state. Here are some of the iTHRIV team members at an organizational meeting in Charlottesville.

The integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV) has been awarded a five-year grant of nearly $23 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance innovative ideas from the point of discovery to implementation in clinical practice and population health.

ITHRIV includes the University of Virginia, Inova Health System, Virginia Tech, and Carilion Clinic as partners, with the Center for Open Science and UVA’s Licensing & Ventures Group as affiliates. The focus of iTHRIV is “using data to improve health” and leverages the data science expertise across the state.

As individual institutions, the partners each have established strengths in biomedical and health-related research. Though individual programs have invested in maximizing research success, iTHRIV is the first cross-state effort in Virginia to integrate broad clinical and translational research resources and processes to transform how this is done.

Translational research is the process of applying knowledge from basic biology and clinical trials to improve health outcomes for patients. Each partner brings resources and expertise in doing research with patients in areas of greatest need. The overarching goal of iTHRIV is to support research that benefits our rural and urban populations by optimizing the use of data science.

The NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, supported by the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), provides resources for researchers across the statewide consortium, trains the next generation of biomedical and health scientists and collaborates with community partners to improve health. The national CTSA network includes approximately 60 institutions around the country that are recognized as elite clinical and translational research institutions.

ITHRIV brings together distinctly different areas of expertise, including translational research, clinical research and data science, and its multi-principal investigator leadership reflects this design, including Karen C. Johnston, an expert in clinical trials and a neurologist who specializes in caring for patients with acute stroke; and Donald E. Brown, a data scientist and systems engineer who was the founding director of the UVA Data Sciences Institute.

Leadership from Virginia Tech and Carilion includes Warren Bickel, co-director of VTC’s Center for Transformative Research in Health Behaviors and a professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and with the Virginia Tech College of Science; Paul Skolnik, chairman of VTC School of Medicine and Carilion’s Department of Internal Medicine; Michael J. Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC; Audra Van Wart, assistant vice president for health sciences education at Virginia Tech; and Kathy Hosig, director for the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

At Inova, John Niederhuber, Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute, leads the program.

“We are very grateful for the NIH funding to support this pipeline of innovation,” said Richard P. Shannon, UVA’s executive vice president for health affairs. “We are extremely excited about the potential of this statewide collaboration to accelerate the development of new treatments and improve the health of people across the commonwealth and beyond.”

“We’re delighted to be part of this transformative initiative in translational and clinical research,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “This partnership advances our biomedical health and sciences enterprise, expands our ongoing collaboration with Carilion Clinic, and strengthens our connections with colleagues across the commonwealth at the University of Virginia and Inova in a way that will benefit the health of all Virginians.”

“This grant is an indication of the innovative research happening right here in Virginia,” said Carilion President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee. “It is an investment that will improve lives across the commonwealth, and we are excited to join our partners and peers in discovery.”

“Translational research is essential to the development of new medical treatments that address currently unmet patient needs. By nurturing the translational research enterprise in Virginia, this grant to iTHRIV will help our researchers work together more effectively to make tomorrow’s breakthroughs,” said Mickey Y. Kim, senior vice president of research and commercialization and the head of Inova Translational Medicine Institute.

The national CTSA program, which now includes iTHRIV, enables research teams including scientists, patient advocacy organizations and community members to tackle significant scientific and operational problems in clinical and translational research that no one team can overcome. The program goals:

  • Train and nurture the clinical and translational science workforce;
  • Engage patients and communities in every phase of the translational process;
  • Promote the integration of special and underserved populations in translational research across the human lifespan;
  • Innovate processes to improve the quality and efficiency of translational research; and
  • Advance the use of cutting-edge informatics and data science to improve the health of communities.