Office of Translational Research
Five major components comprise the OTR’s portfolio of responsibilities: translational research, public-private partnerships, education and training, global environmental health, and Environmental Health Perspectives(http://www.ehponline.org/).
Translational research activities incorporate interactions with both the intramural and extramural NIEHS communities with the goal of promoting and fostering the concept of translational research among NIEHS-supported researchers.
The OTR has worked with the NIEHS intramural community to develop the Director’s Challenge: DIR Program in Intramural Research, an initiative that invites intramural investigators to develop new interdisciplinary research programs designed to understand human disease and improve human health.
Along with changes to various grant programs designed to promote and foster translational research, OTR oversees the Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research (DISCOVER) Program(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/centers/discover/index.cfm). This program will facilitate the integration of mechanistically driven and patient-oriented research to speed the translation of the environmental health sciences into clinical and public health applications. Awards made under the DISCOVER centers will be for multi-project, interdisciplinary programs to understand the etiology, pathogenesis, prognosis, and epidemiology of human disease processes.
Additionally, OTR Associate Director William Martin serves as chair of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards Translational Subcommittee. The CTSA program (http://www.ncrr.nih.gov/clinicaldiscipline.asp) is a national trans-NIH consortium that will transform how clinical and translational research is conducted, ultimately enabling researchers to provide new treatments faster and more efficiently to patients. This new consortium begins with 12 academic health centers located throughout the United States. An additional 52 awardees are receiving planning grants to help them prepare applications to join the consortium. When fully implemented in 2012, approximately 60 institutions will be linked together to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science.
By establishing public-private partnerships, the NIEHS seeks to enhance translation through transferring an established scientific knowledge base into effective action within communities. These efforts are exemplified by the Head-off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana (HEAL) (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/heal/home.html) study, a collaborative research project conducted by the Tulane University Health Sciences Center and the New Orleans Department of Health, and funded by the NIEHS, the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), and the Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc. (MCAN). The purpose of the project is to learn about the effects of mold and other indoor allergens on children with asthma in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans where the environment presents an opportunity to determine ways to promote better medical management and safer home environments in an effort to improve the health of local children with asthma. OTR Associate Director William Martin is a principle investigator for the HEAL study. Patricia Chulada of the NIEHS Office of Clinical Research is also an investigator.
Education and Training
To enhance the quality and productivity of education and training at the NIEHS, an Education and Training Committee has been formed, comprised of both intramural and extramural staff members. The committee will develop new approaches to the recruitment and training of physician scientists, specialty fellows, residents, and medical students at the NIEHS. It will also provide oversight and guidance to the Summers of Discovery(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/summers/index.cfm) program, and to the Office of Fellows’ Career Development (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/training/ofcd/index.cfm). The committee will also evaluate the success of educational training programs at the NIEHS, offering recommendations to the scientific director, the director of the Division of Extramural Research and Training, and the NIEHS director.
Global Environmental Health
One of the key elements delineated in Goal IV of the NIEHS Strategic Plan is the Institute’s intention to develop a program in global environmental health (GEH). This initiative will fall under the purview of the Office of Translational Research. In January 2007, the NIEHS gathered a distinguished international panel of scientists in San Francisco, California to participate in the NIEHS Global Environmental Health Conference, a working meeting designed to provide guidance on potential strategies and tactics for the NIEHS to consider. The invited scientists were split into three working groups organized around a life course model.
The working groups were asked to perform five key tasks:
Through this conference, the NIEHS has gained knowledge that will inform: