$48 million award to build on a bedrock of innovation

 $48 million award to increase capacity to develop preventative, therapeutic, policy interventions

OHSU’s Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute, or OCTRI, (pronounced oak tree), is a hub for the expertise and physical resources that researchers, clinicians and community partners need to develop impactful health care interventions based on scientific discoveries.          

The $48 million Clinical and Translational Science Award, or CTSA, to OHSU from the National Institutes of Health funds OCTRI as part of a collaborative consortium that generates policies and practices to reduce the time it takes for ideas to have impact on human health.

David Ellison, M.D., director of OCTRI and associate vice president for Clinical and Translational Research

Translational research aims to convert discoveries — from the laboratory or the clinic — into results that directly benefit people. This includes developing best practices for prevention and treatment.

“At OCTRI, we develop research tools, design research protocols and provide funding and training to speed the progress of research into the community to improve human health,” said David Ellison, M.D., director of OCTRI and associate vice president for Clinical and Translational Research at OHSU. “We’re the one-stop shop for clinical and translational research at OHSU.”

Funding and mentorship: Biomedical Innovation Program

The Biomedical Innovation Program, or BIP, is one of OCTRI’s mechanisms for directly supporting translational research. It provides funding, entrepreneurship education, project management and mentorship to take ideas from scientists into the world. Recently, a device supported by the first round of BIP Awards was approved for clinical use by the Food and Drug Administration. The DuraFuse™ Dural Clips make it possible for neurosurgeons to close sutures in a fraction of the time previously required.

The BIP has also addressed COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, it has funded the development of drug and device projects, including a 3D-printed ventilator, SARS-CoV-2 nanobodies as therapeutics against COVID-19, and the generation of a mouse model to specifically research SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Career development, training and mentorship

OCTRI has played a significant role in nurturing early-career scientists, including many people who are now mid-career and senior faculty. This early support provides two years of protected research time and research funds, as well as career development and mentorship to help launch individuals’ research careers.

“Supporting investigators as they start their research careers has been the highlight of my career at OHSU,” said Cynthia Morris, Ph.D., M.P.H. “In the past five years, more than 40% of the people in our career development programs have been people of color. That representation is so important to OHSU.”

Research infrastructure: Innovations that connect

Bringing investigators together is central to OCTRI’s work, because collaborations among scientists lead to more meaningful discoveries. One of OCTRI’s innovations —the Navigator program—connects investigators to resources and expertise, and helps resolve research problems as they arise.

“The Navigator is a great example of how you can bring together researchers with different skills and talents to create the perfect team,” Ellison said. “Anyone can come to the OCTRI website and tell us what they are aiming to do, and we can help find the right people that can make studies happen in ways that you couldn’t if Navigator didn’t exist.”

Recently, OCTRI partnered with OHSU’s Chief Research Information Officer David Dorr, M.D., M.S., to develop a Data Concierge that connects investigators with various forms of research data. Akin to Navigator, this partnership addresses a specialized field within biomedical research that occurs at the intersection of research data and electronic health records.

“OCTRI receives many notes of appreciation for Navigator and for being able to steer people in the right direction and support their work,” said Ellison. “That is a marker of success that’s not tied to a specific clinical trial or project, but is — for us — very meaningful and reflects the benefits of our support for investigators.”

Building diversity: Local and regional collaborations

Mentorship programs, entrepreneurial training, research infrastructure — OCTRI has worked to develop relationships with other Oregon universities and organizations, and the plan is to expand and strengthen collaborations with nonprofits and other organizations.

“One of the real strengths we’ve developed over the last five to 10 years has been our partnership with PSU and the Build EXITO program,” said Morris, professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “This undergraduate research training program supports students on their path to becoming scientific researchers. “We have provided a rich research experience in more than 80 OHSU labs to more than 300 undergraduate students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences.”

About one third of EXITO students have entered a graduate program to continue in their professional development. About 40% have entered OHSU’s research workforce directly, an unexpected outcome and one that increases diversity at OHSU.

Two nascent and quickly growing collaborations are with OCHIN and the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network, or ORPRN. OCHIN is a national network that started in Oregon and connects community health centers with the best available information technology to promote health in their communities. ORPRN is a statewide network of primary care clinicians, community partners, and researchers dedicated to studying the delivery of health care to improve the health of Oregonians and reduce rural health disparities.

These groups will help OCTRI recruit research participants from outside the Portland area and create more diverse data sets and research cohorts. This is fundamental to the work of OCTRI.

“This $48 million grant means we can continue and build on the best of our programs and have the financial stability to develop innovative new approaches, over the course of the next five years,” said Ellison. “All of us at OCTRI are excited to build new possibilities going forward.”


OCTRI Programs

OCTRI comprises more than 10 teams that provide programs and services that advance translational research.