Buffalo Translational Consortium News

Undergrads explore career paths in clinical and translational science

Posted on 07/19/17 at 11:23 am

Undergraduate students participating in summer programs in the health sciences at UB were invited to explore careers in clinical and translational research at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on June 23. The annual event is sponsored by the UB CTSI Workforce Development core and the following programs:

CLIMB UP (ASPET-SURF, CLIMB PRO, iSEED, CTSI) 

 CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program)

 LSAMP (SUNY Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation)

 “This is an annual event we have hosted with the other UB summer programs since 2012,” said CLIMB UP Program Coordinator Liz Marshall. “The goal is to introduce students to the PhD and MD/PhD programs at Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and also to get the students thinking about how and why to choose a graduate school or professional program.”

Some of the students are taking pre-med courses but many are interested in pursuing PhDs in the biomedical sciences or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, she said.

“This year CLIMB UP is hosting four undergraduate students who are mentored in clinical and translational research by the KL2 and CTSI Scholars,” said Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and director of the CTSI’s Workforce Development core. “The students are expressing increasing interest in clinical and translational science, and alumni are acknowledging the positive impact of the CLIMB UP program in their career choices.”

The agenda for Graduate and Professional Careers in Clinical and Translational Research consisted of presentations by Dubocovich and two CTSI Scholars (Umesh Sharma, MD, PhD, and Jason Muhitch, PhD) who discussed their educational and career pathways. A poster session featuring eight of the UB CTSI cores was held during lunch. Students were also offered tours of the Clinical and Translational Research Center’s facilities by CTRC Research Facilities Manager Terry-Ann Smith, MS.

Rajendram V. Rajnarayanan, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology and associate director of CLIMB UP, and Suzanne Laychock, PhD, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities and the admissions director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD), discussed planning a curriculum and the admissions process.

A panel session with current PhD and MD/PhD students Anthony Jones, Chelsey Reed, Spencer Rosario and Jena Walczyk closed out the program with a lively dialogue about the importance of choosing a good mentor and remaining open to unexpected opportunities in one’s course of study.

About 60 students attended the half-day program.

“Holding an event like this at the CTRC is an excellent recruiting tool for us, plus a terrific way for our students to interact with students from other programs,” said Marshall. “Most (of the students) are located at the South or North campuses and don’t have the opportunity to visit the pristine, state-of-the-art facilities at the Medical Campus.”

Say hello to ‘Translational Spotlight,’ the official newsletter of the UB CTSI

Posted on 07/18/17 at 01:32 pm
CTSI Board Member Anne B. Curtis, MD, and CTSI Community Research Facilitator Megan Wilson, MPA

Back in April, we asked readers to submit suggestions for a new name for the official newsletter of the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Since the inaugural issue of August 2011, the newsletter had been known simply as the “CTRC Newsletter” and more recently as “News and Updates.”

“Translational Spotlight” was the winner from among 65 suggestions received. The name is a hybrid of elements of names submitted by CTSI Community Research Facilitator Megan Wilson, MPA (“Translational”) and CTSI Board Member Anne B. Curtis, MD (“Spotlight”).

“The new name reflects our focus on the science of translational research,” said CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD. “As in the past, future editions of the newsletter will cast a spotlight on success stories and new developments in clinical and translational research that’s being conducted at UB and by our Buffalo Translational Consortium partners.”

All of the entries were reviewed by a committee whose members did not know the identity of the entrants. There were duplicates for just two of the names submitted, neither of which was selected as the winning entry.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the UB CTSI Name the Newsletter contest.

CTSI Research Riders rock the annual Ride For Roswell

Posted on 07/06/17 at 03:27 pm
CTSI Research Riders 2017 team

On a beautiful Saturday morning in June, the CTSI Research Riders put their collective pedal power to work for cancer research and treatment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They were among some 8,000 bicyclists who participated in the 22nd annual Ride For Roswell, North America’s largest single-day cycling fundraiser.

To date, the Research Riders have raised $5,305 for the effort, contributing to the more than $4.6 million that was collected for the cancer institute. But it’s not too late to donate if you would like to add to that total. Go to the RPCI website to make a donation or call 716-THE-RIDE (843-7433).

The CTSI Research Riders team consists of: CTSI Director Timothy Murphy; Chief Financial Officer Erin Bailey and her husband Paul Bailey; Administrative Assistant AnnMarie Billen; Research Administrator Erin O’Byrne and her father Matt O’Byrne; Clinical Research Facilitator Jennifer Delmerico, her husband Alan and daughter Alice; MD/PhD student Mary Gallo; Jennifer Smith and Patti Rybi of the UB Office of Research Compliance; CTRC Facilities Manager Terry-Ann Smith and Christopher Roth.

“Roswell Park is a key partner in the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute,” said Murphy. “The Ride for Roswell is an inspiring community event that that is a privilege to be a part of. The funds raised go directly to a great cause.”

Pictured above: (front, kneeling) father-daughter duo of Matt and Erin O'Byrne; (back, l to r) Jen Delmerico with her daughter Alice and husband Alan, Mary Gallo, Tim Murphy and Erin Bailey. 

OnCore project is improving clinical research at UB in ways big and small

Posted on 07/05/17 at 12:14 pm
Rick Rejman (left), a clinical research coordinator in the CRO, works mostly on studies of kidney disease

Roll-out of the university-wide OnCore research management system continues to make progress one year after its first introduction to the UB research community. The software system is designed both to facilitate the full management of individual clinical trials and house the university’s human subjects research portfolio.

In addition to streamlining processes at labs and clinics across UB’s three campuses, the ultimate goal of the project is to get every trial involving human subjects into the same system to improve reporting at the department and university level.

As of this writing, more than 900 trials had been entered as the phased roll-out to all the schools proceeds on a department-by-department, person-by-person basis.

Good for individual labs, good for the university

“It elevates UB as a research institution,” says Kim Brunton, RN, MSN, who is associate director of operations for the University at Buffalo Clinical Research Office (CRO) and director of the Clinical Research Center. She has been a key player in the acquisition and implementation of the new OnCore system.

For coordinators managing full clinical trials, use of OnCore helps to reduce the administrative burden of organizing studies, scheduling patients, keeping up with regulatory requirements, archiving study materials and invoicing study sponsors.

“One of the biggest things that it allows us to do is to have financial reconciliation,” says Brunton. “You do the work then you get paid, rather than waiting till the end of a study to ‘catch up’ on billing.”

In addition to streamlining office procedures and improving money flow, OnCore helps principal investigators as they prepare reports, monitor patients, recruit new subjects and analyze the feasibility of future studies. At the institutional level, administrators can now gather information about the studies at UB in real time, which is a big plus when communicating with the industry sponsors and government agencies that control research funding.

Reduces the administrative burden on coordinators 

Brunton hearkens back to when she was a coordinator in the vascular surgery department and every year prepared a report for the chair on all the vascular surgery studies. Her counterparts in general surgery and transplant surgery would be putting together the same reports for their departments, and the chair would compile those reports and forward the results to the dean, who was collecting the same information from all of the other chairs.

“That can take some time and, obviously, resources, to put it together,” says Brunton. “Through the OnCore system, I can have that report -- to whatever management level is required -- in about 32 seconds. The reporting capability is huge. And it takes away some of the burden for those administrative duties that falls on individual coordinators so that they can be out there doing the things they are more suited to, like recruiting and following the patients.”

OnCore is an acronym for “Online Collaborative Research Environment.” It’s designed to break down the silos in biomedical research. It provides a means for the UB and Buffalo Translational Consortium research community “to get a look at the big picture, to keep track of what’s going on where, and make connections. … Just knowing which people are doing what is a big deal,” says Brunton.

A powerful tool for patient recruitment

Currently, it’s almost impossible to get a handle on all the clinical trials that are going on at UB with up-to-date information -- such as the enrollment of patients, for instance. Having a readily accessible database that can be searched by investigators, providers, and even patients who might be interested in participating in a study, is a boon to recruitment efforts. 

“The nice thing about OnCore is that when a study’s status changes within the system, it also changes on the public-facing website,” says Brunton.

A place for everything, everything in its place

Entering data into the OnCore system isn’t an additional task for coordinators. Rather, it consolidates under one umbrella a number of the tasks coordinators already do anyway. “When I was a coordinator I had a whole bulletin board full of spreadsheets tracking this, that and the other thing,” she says, “but now all that is done within the system, and it’s easy to get at the information you need.”

Bringing all that data together in one place can have unintended side benefits, too.

Yvonne Woolwine-Cunningham is a clinical research coordinator in the CRO who works mostly with vascular surgeons at Buffalo General Hospital. She has been using the OnCore system for almost a year.

“We used to have something called an enrollment tracking log that we’d have to put all the patient visits into, plus site monitor visits, SAEs (Serious Adverse Events) and submissions to the IRB (Internal Review Board),” she says. “We would keep the log for the people who bill the sponsors for the studies, so they know what was done and what to invoice for. We don’t have to do that anymore because all that can be pulled from OnCore.”

The NCT (National Clinical Trial) number is a unique identification code assigned to each clinical study registered on the federal government’s clinicaltrials.gov centralized database, but “it’s not something coordinators typically need or use,” says Rick Rejman, a clinical research coordinator in the CRO for the past four years. However, sometimes a coordinator does need that number, and then it can be a challenge to find it.

Rather than hunting through binders and binders of information, or searching the government website for the hard-to-find NCT number, he discovered he could pull the number up from OnCore instantly.

“I find it useful for tracking consents,” Rejman added. “It’s a good reference point to see what’s up and coming, what’s needed for patient visits, and for recording information after the visit. The calendar in itself has been a great time-saver because I can look to it and see really quickly when the next scheduled visit should be without checking the patient’s chart,” he said. The calendar automatically lays out protocol-specific scheduled visits, which is another labor-saving feature, according to Rejman.

“Sponsors love remote monitoring,” says Brunton, “but it requires site resources to copy, redact and send the information they’re going to look at. Historically, they don’t pay for that. But now that’s something we’re capturing in the system, so we can bill for it. It puts us in a position of having that knowledge and real data behind it. And knowledge is power.”

Getting started with OnCore

As with any new system, “there’s a bit of a learning curve at first,” says Woolwine-Cunningham, "but the more you use it the easier it gets. The OnCore support team has staff that come out and train you, and they’ll come out and help you with any problems. They’re really responsive.”

“It’s pretty intuitive and user-friendly,” added Rejman.

There will be extra work to do as a coordinator learns the system, and it may take awhile to get studies that began before implementation into the system, but research coordinators have found that the centralized system saves time and effort in the long run.

"OnCore is changing the way coordinators work to make the process more streamlined and effective and productive,” says Brunton. In the process, UB’s research community has gained a powerful new tool for tracking ongoing research and positioning the university to expand its overall research portfolio.

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