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ACTRI Summary for Grant Proposals

Vision and Mission

The Vision of UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) is to translate scientific discoveries into improved health.

Our Mission is to provide research resources, training, and collaboration opportunities for ACTRI scientists, health care providers, and the community.

Established in 2010, ACTRI provides infrastructure and support for basic, translational, and clinical research throughout the San Diego region; expedites the translation of discoveries into therapies; and facilitates the training and education of the next generation of researchers. We carry out our activities in collaboration with institutional and corporate partners.

ACTRI now has more than 1,400 members, with affiliations that stretch across UC San Diego and San Diego State University to the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Salk Institute, to Rady Children’s Hospital and the VA San Diego Health Care System, to nonprofit and biotech/pharma.

ACTRI is partially funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, a component of the National Institutes of Health, through a competitive, five-year Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), making us part of the national CTSA Consortium.

The Institute is located in the new Altman CTRI building at UC San Diego near Thornton Pavilion in La Jolla. The facility houses ACTRI’s administrative offices with approximately 50 staff members, as well as the ACTRI clinic and labs. This seven-story, $269 million facility serves as a bridge between UC San Diego’s clinical and research enterprises.

ACTRI provides assistance with proposal development, study design, regulatory issues and submissions, biostatistics and informatics, ethics consultation, clinical trial coordination, genomics technologies, a biorepository, facilitation with an affiliated laboratory network, and training for medical students and early career investigators. More than 200 clinical trials are run through ACTRI every year.

ACTRI Organizational Structure

Six ACTRI Units enable us to achieve our mission: the Center for Clinical Research Services; Biomedical Informatics; Translational Research Technology; Community Engagement; Education, Training and Career Development; and the Translational Research Alliance.

Center for Clinical Research (CCR)
Director: Mark Wallace, MD

  • Research Design and Biostatistics assists with the planning, conduct, analysis, and reporting of clinical trials; studies involving epidemiology, populations, and the risk of disease; translational research; scientific computing for data analysis and scientific graphics; analysis of high-dimensional data generated by –omics fields and imaging research; database design and management; IND protocols and other technical issues; and revisions of grant applications
  • Ethics Support provides education and training to ensure that researchers are aware of safeguards and controls to protect human subjects. These programs include daylong ethics train-the-trainer courses for ACTRI faculty, focusing on how to introduce ethics issues in the research environment, and Research Ethics courses offered at UC San Diego and partner institutions
  • Regulatory Support interacts with UC San Diego’s Human Research Protections Program (HRPP) for reporting, education, and development of Institutional Review Board (IRB) processes. A regulatory assistant helps CTRI members with proposal submissions to HRPP staff members, who ensure timely processing and regulatory review of clinical protocols through four biomedical IRBs
  • CCR Services staff assist investigators with the actual performance of clinical research involving adults and/or children. This unit provides trained clinical staff, including nurses, clinical coordinators and a nutrition consultant; clinical research space with a phase I unit and research pharmacy; sample acquisition and processing; core facilities; and data entry

Biomedical Informatics (BMI) Unit
Director: Michael Hogarth, MD

The Unit develops, pilots, launches, and manages informatics software systems, provides consultative services for investigators, and provides training in informatics in the following areas:

  • Velos eResearch is an integrated software system designed to assist investigators in managing their clinical research trials/studies. The web-based system integrates multiple tracking systems and standardizes clinical trial records, simplifying clinical trial management. It also links to the UC San Diego Health’s Epic Electronic Medical Record System to provide improved information and integration for clinical research projects. Velos eSample is a module of Velos eResearch that links biological samples to patient electronic medical records. Investigators can track where samples are stored and track multiple samples
  • REDCap, (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. The application also allows researchers to create projects and export data to Excel, SAS, and other statistical packages. ACTRI offers training sessions and online tutorials for investigators interested in using REDCap
  • The Clinical Data Warehouse for Research (CDWR) allows researchers to identify potential research subjects through HIPAA-compliant searches of UC San Diego Medical Center patient data. The CDWR provides patient diagnoses, outpatient visits, age, and gender, among a growing list of data types
  • The UC-Research eXchange (UC-ReX) tool allows researchers to search 15 million de-identified patient records from medical center databases here at UC San Diego, as well as at UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Davis, and UC San Francisco. Launched by the University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration and Development (UC BRAID), this first cross-campus clinical query system is capable of exchanging patient-level data, as well as aggregates (counts and descriptive statistics) across the five UC medical centers and some of our key partner institutions. A Data Concierge service identifies patients for clinical research projects.

Translational Research Technology Unit (TRT)
Co-Directors: Paul Mills, PhD and Professor David Boyle

TRT provides seamless laboratory services and collaborations through the ACTRI Biorepositories, affiliated biorepositories, ACTRI Laboratory, affiliated laboratories, the ACTRI Seminar Series (with the Education unit), and educational activities.

  • The ACTRI Biorepositories prospectively collect, curate, and house human tissues and other biological samples from healthy individuals and those with selected diseases. Repository management is available to ACTRI members
  • Affiliated biorepositories include samples from patients with HIV/AIDS, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and rheumatic diseases
  • The ACTRI Laboratory specializes in quantitative measurement of biomarkers in human clinical specimens such as blood, solid tissue, urine, and sputum. The Laboratory offers more than 125 validated assays, many of which are immunoassays and quantitative PCR
  • Affiliated laboratories include the fMRI Center for Neuroimaging, Proteomics/Mass Spectroscopy, Tissue Imaging, the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, Human Tissue Resources, and the UC San Diego Genomics Core at the Sanford Consortium
  • ACTRI provides an integrated service to support molecular methods in clinical trials, and includes mentoring, training, assay design, and performance
  • ACTRI developed the Center for Accelerating Drug Development (CADD) to enable early decisions during early phases of drug development. CADD brings together the biomarker laboratory (TRT), the phase I unit (CCR) and the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

Community Engagement (CE) Unit
Director: Howard Taras, MD

Community Engagement advances the science of community engagement in research, engages the general public on matters of clinical and translational research, and increases collaboration with community-based agencies and providers. For ACTRI investigators, research staff, and trainees, the Division promotes best practices in community engagement, increases the capacity to engage the community, and increases the use of ACTRI services.

  • Builds partnerships with practitioners and patients at Palomar Pomerado Health, Rady Children’s Hospital, community clinics, and other health-related organizations and agencies, and the general public
  • Educates the public about clinical research, translational researchers about community-based research, and community physicians about new treatments
  • Promotes research in health care disparities
  • Links investigators to potential human volunteers through novel web-based tools like ResearchMatch
  • The Participant Recruitment Center, co-established in collaboration with BMI, enhances participant recruitment for clinical trials by bringing together existing services and novel informatics platforms that consider patient preferences

Education, Training and Career Development (ETCD) Unit
Director: Colin Depp, PhD

The ACTRI ETCD Unit promotes research training by organizing institutional Roadmap training programs (i.e., TL1, KL2, CREST); developing an educational pipeline of research training: students at the undergraduate, medical, graduate, and postgraduate levels, and junior faculty; advancing mentoring through data collection and training (Mentoring Academy); leading collaborative efforts between the ETCD Division and partners at UC San Diego, other institutions, and across the CTSA Consortium; conducting research on training; and enhancing the diversity of trainees, mentors, and their projects.

  • Roadmap TL1: A postdoctoral research training program that provides structured short- and long-term research experiences for medical and pharmacy students, as well as postdoctoral scholars. The Education unit evaluates the training program, its director, and its mentors and mentees; curates the resulting data; selects mentors; and matches them to mentees 
  • Roadmap Clinical Research Enhancement through Supplemental Training (CREST) curriculum program: A modular curriculum that provides training in clinical research and can lead to a master’s degree
  • Roadmap KL2: A mentored research program that supports junior faculty
  • “Scholar Track” program: A five-year dual-track, concurrent MD/Masters of Advanced Science (MAS) degree program that prepares participants to launch a career in clinical research
  • Mentoring Academy: Assesses trainee and mentor needs, addresses these needs through training, and recognizes excellence in mentorship
  • ACTRI Seminar Series: The Unit supports this series aimed at clinicians, scientists, scholars and trainees at UC San Diego and our Partner/Affiliated Institutions by providing lectures and workshops on a broad range of clinical and translational research topics
  • Biomedical and Clinical Research Seminars in Hillcrest: The unit supports this series to build interactions among the faculty, staff, and trainees at UC San Diego’s Medical Center-Hillcrest; to promote collaborations with other scientists; and to stimulate an exchange of ideas
  • Increasing diversity by partnering with diversity-focused initiatives to improve outreach to underrepresented applicants

Translational Research Alliance (TRA)
Director: Deborah Spector, PhD and Murray Stein, MD, MPH

The Translational Research Alliance links clinical and translational investigators at UC San Diego, VA San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital, and Palomar Pomerado Health with basic science researchers at the Salk Institute, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology (LIAI), the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), and San Diego State University (SDSU) in order to foster collaboration and resource-sharing, and to decrease barriers to interaction. It also facilitates technology transfer and the development of novel therapies with our partner institutions and industry, and increases interaction with CONNECT and BIOCOM.

  • Promotes collaborations among ACTRI’s institutional and corporate partners; establishes long-term relationships with multiple companies that will help develop ACTRI innovations
  • The Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) program brings engineers and clinicians together to develop innovative technologies that can be applied to solving challenging problems in medical care. The program is a collaboration with the UC San Diego Institute of Engineering in Medicine
  • International TRA Unit promotes international research and corporate partnerships, beginning with projects in Finland, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, South America, and Japan
  • Pilot Research Grants offer several annual grant programs: Clinical Studies, Translational Studies, Personalized Medicine, and Innovative Technology Projects
  • William J. von Liebig Center offers consultation to pilot grant awardees on filing patents, developing business plans, seeking private funding, and other methods for commercializing university innovations. The Center is housed in the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

ACTRI Process for Service Requests

 Service Request Reviews

Funding and Facilities

ACTRI receives funding from various sources, including extramural support from the NIH through a Clinical and Translational Research Award ($52 million) and through the individual research funding of members (more than $90 million); intramural support from UC San Diego for infrastructure and education; income from recharges for services provided to members; and philanthropic and intramural support for new buildings.

In 2016, we moved into the Altman CTRI building at UC San Diego, which includes 359,000 square feet of offices, state-of-the-art laboratories and clinical space (including a research pharmacy) and houses a multitude of distinct research endeavors. All of our outpatient activities are integrated in one location, optimizing safety, oversight, and cost effectiveness. Clinical research is conducted in 18,000 square feet and includes: reception area; rooms for examination, consultation, phlebotomy, infusion, and other procedures; pharmacy; and space for sample acquisition and processing. Also located in the Altman CTRI Building are nurses and clinical coordinators, Clinical Trial Administration, the Human Research Protections Program, Biostatistics, Biomedical Informatics support, and staff for the Education and Community Divisions.