Published September 14, 2018
UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has announced $3 million in funding for the development and testing of methods to bring evidence-based findings into routine clinical practice.
New drugs and diagnostic tests go through years of clinical trials before clearing the enormous hurdle of obtaining regulatory approval. However, getting through the process doesn’t automatically ensure that patients have access to the medical breakthroughs.
Implementation science is a new field evolving to facilitate the transition from clinical trials to clinical practice.
The CTSI announced the funding of two Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences faculty scholars who will focus on this new science so more patients benefit from innovations.
The funding is one of just 10 grants in the U.S. awarded for this purpose by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Called a K12 award, it is an institutional career development award designed to promote recruitment and retention of the best and brightest to UB.
“With these translational science grants, NIH wants to bring more relevance to research,” says Ranjit Singh, MB BChir, associate professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Family Medicine.
Singh, who also directs the Jacobs School’s Primary Care Research Institute (PCRI), is co-director on the grant with John M. Canty Jr., MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Albert and Elizabeth Rekate Professor of medicine. Noyes is director of curriculum.
While translational science is the effort to speed the delivery of medical advances to patients, implementation science is sometimes described as “late-stage” translational science in that it involves ensuring that the community has the broadest access possible to those advances.
In its request for applications, the NIH stated “this program is not focused on traditional explanatory science that tests interventions under ideal conditions, but rather on how to translate confirmed evidence into practice by patients, providers or health systems under usual conditions.”
In other words, says Singh, “To translate innovation to the real world, you need to go to real practices and real patients.”
“Most clinical trials are performed in controlled settings,” he explains. “To be in a trial, patients need to meet strict criteria and the treatment needs to be delivered with a very high degree of fidelity.”
“This rigor is necessary to prove that the intervention, such as a medication, is truly efficacious for the intended patients, but translating an innovation to the real world requires working with busy clinical teams and with diverse patients, who don’t necessarily fit the mold,” Singh says.
Singh says patients may have multiple medical conditions and treatments that they are juggling, and they may face financial and social challenges and other stressors.
“Similarly, providers have limited time with patients and are under pressure to see more patients and meet new quality metrics that may not align with the patient’s goals,” he adds.
John S. Taylor, executive director of development at the PCRI, put it this way: “Much of what is recommended based on traditional science is not doable in the real world. This grant is about how to get that science into the real world, what’s doable by the provider or patient.”
Singh says implementation science includes “pragmatic clinical trials,” which are sometimes perceived as “dirty science” because they relax many of the traditional requirements for methodological rigor needed for the more familiar randomized controlled trials.
“Pragmatic clinical trials and other implementation science studies aim to demonstrate effectiveness with diverse patients in diverse settings and to understand what strategies are needed to incorporate the treatment into routine practice,” he says.
This requires a different set of approaches. Some aspects of methodological rigor, such as those based on narrow patient selection and very precise procedures, are relaxed out of necessity, while others are retained.
“The key is to make careful, deliberate choices in the research design to ensure that the results are relevant and inform future practice,” Singh says.
The scientific rigor, he adds, is improved by the use of established theories and models of adoption and implementation that draw from multiple scientific disciplines.
“This is a challenging field because it covers the whole spectrum of how new medical approaches can be adopted, from the policy level down to the individual medical practice or patient,” Singh says.
Taylor notes: “Implementation science is about what makes something implementable and what the barriers are. The biggest challenge is engagement.”
The grant funds two positions this year and three to five over the next four years, supporting mentored research and career development for faculty scholars, either currently at UB or new recruits, in implementation research.
Their charge is to address the complex process of bridging research and practice in real-world settings.
The program is especially interested in novel approaches to reducing health disparities in clinical populations and increasing diversity in the clinical and translational workforce.