Cornell University: $61M grant funds translational science at Weill Cornell Medicine

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Weill Cornell Medicine was awarded a $61.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) to continue funding its Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) until 2027.

It is the largest federal grant ever awarded to Weill Cornell Medicine and the fourth consecutive time this initiative has been funded by the NIH, representing 20 years of continuous funding.

Weill Cornell Medicine’s CTSC, led by founding director and principal investigator, Dr. Julianne Imperato-McGinley, has advanced translational science with its prestigious partner institutions since 2007, when it was awarded a $49.6 million grant, the largest federal grant awarded to Weill Cornell Medicine at that time. The partners include a core network of scientific institutions that combine their expertise to push the boundaries of translational research and innovation to accelerate the clinical application of basic science discoveries.

“The Clinical and Translational Science Center embodies the collaborative spirit that is made possible when institutions come together to foster innovation in science and medicine,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “I commend Dr. Imperato-McGinley and the CTSC team for their incredible work and the great strides they’ve made in advancing the field of translational research, and we are grateful for the NIH’s ongoing support of this critical effort, which will have lasting benefits for patients worldwide.”

“We’re excited to continue collaborating with our partner institutions to advance medical innovations to improve human health,” Imperato-McGinley said. “The CTSC drives innovation by creating novel initiatives that are implemented as an interdisciplinary team. Gone are the days of the single researcher. Team science is how important advances are accomplished. One researcher may have an idea, and others enhance the idea stimulating innovation. That’s the CTSC’s approach.”

Consortium members include Cornell with its Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell Tech and the Cornell Cooperative Extension; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Hospital for Special Surgery; and Hunter College and its schools of Nursing and Public Health. Throughout the past 15 years, the CTSC has continued to stimulate translational research through interdisciplinary grants for researchers at all levels, as well as mentoring courses, seminars, workshops and programs designed to ignite creativity and stimulate entrepreneurship for rapid translational impact. CTSC investigators with an innovative idea can apply for multidisciplinary grants as trainees and scholars, and other researchers can seek pilot awards to fund their projects.

Since 2007, the CTSC has supported 5,157 investigators, trained 1,246 promising junior scientists with long-term and short-term programs, including the KL2 Scholar mentored career development program for senior investigators, the TL1 pre-doctoral traineeship for junior investigators, and a pilot award program. More than 300 CTSC scholars and trainees have published 7,564 original journal articles and received 962 research grants. Two-hundred thirty-six pilot awardees received 800 grants and published 282 original journal articles directly related to their research projects. Overall, 78 inventions, with 35 patents, have been issued and 28 patents are still pending.

This dedication to entrepreneurship and creative thinking is reflected in the CTSC’s Health Hackathon. The inaugural event, hosted before the COVID-19 pandemic and sponsored by the CTSC along with Cornell’s Ithaca campus, drew attendance from thousands of students, faculty and allied professionals. During the inaugural five-day event, diverse teams – which could include a surgeon, hematologist, veterinarian, a technician and an undergraduate student – assembled spontaneously to address real-world health-care problems. These teams produced creative ideas, including medical devices that could make their way to patients under the guidance of the CTSC and corporate mentors. “Hackathon participants worked well together and capitalized on innovative ideas as a diverse team. It was amazingly successful and we look forward to continuing the event,” Imperato-McGinley said.

Over the next five years, the CTSC will host multiple courses in entrepreneurship and creative thinking with the help of entrepreneurs-in-residence, who will discuss how they developed their ideas to launch companies to produce drugs or devices that are beneficial to patients.

The CTSC aims to improve the health of patients in underserved areas of New York City. It has established and will continue to expand community involvement with opioid overdose prevention and education, community health screenings and extensive community outreach programs with mini-hubs located in the boroughs of New York City. “We bring the clinic to the community,” Imperato-McGinley said. “Of the thousands who have attended our local health screenings, we’ve discovered that more than half of those screened have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and many didn’t have any knowledge of it.”

The CTSC also played a vital role combatting vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Managed and established by the CTSC, vaccination clinics were set up in community and nonprofit spaces in underserved areas of Queens and the Bronx in collaboration with the Community Healthcare Network of federally qualified health centers. Weill Cornell Medicine medical students and Hunter College nursing students worked as a team to administer the vaccinations. The team successfully administered 31,000 vaccinations within five months.

The CTSC will continue to advance by developing and disseminating innovative tools, education programs, informatics and other resources in translational science. It will also participate in national clinical trials and recruitment in collaboration with the NCATS to form a well-orchestrated nationwide network of interdependent stakeholders to continue to improve human health.

“Armed with multifaceted research and training, resources and community outreach, the CTSC is an extremely valuable resource for Weill Cornell Medicine, its partners and the community,” Imperato-McGinley said, “with our trainees successfully progressing along the academic translational pathway into leadership positions.

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