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VOL. 133 | NO. 71 | Monday, April 9, 2018

Statewide Clinical Trials Effort Launches Out of UTHSC

By Andy Meek

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When Dr. Steven Goodman, vice chancellor for research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, arrived at the college more than two years ago, his ambition was to launch a statewide clinical trials network.

That idea has now become a reality, with the creation of the Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee that’s operating as a separate, 501(c)(3) subsidiary of the university’s research foundation. Goodman and his team took the idea – for the creation of what’s being called CTN2, for short – to the foundation’s board of directors in December, where they secured unanimous approval.

The UT board of trustees then committed $3 million to the effort and on March 23 agreed to release the first-year funds to the research foundation, which in turn will fund CTN2.

In an interview with The Daily News, Goodman said he’s excited about the effort because it serves two major goals.

“The most exciting part of this is that the reason we do research – basic research and translational research at UTHSC – is that the end results are products, whether they’re better drugs or better devices, that can be used to improve the health of Tennesseans. For me, that is the fundamental, most exciting part about this.

“The other exciting part is that we’re trying to grow research at UTHSC, which means growing grants and contracts. And CTN2 is going to be a major mechanism for growing grants and contracts at the university.”

The network was created, according to the university, to enable its clinical research faculty to design and conduct statewide clinical trials that help advance new drugs and medical devices. The effort was put into a clearinghouse that’s separate from the university so that CTN2 can help cut down on administrative functions and provide a more streamlined budgeting and contracting process for what will be a multi-institution initiative.

An effort that’s linked to the creation of CTN2 is the development of a data warehouse for all CTN2-partnering medical center patients. Work is already underway on that effort, according to Dr. Robert Davis, Governor’s Chair in the UTHSC-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Center in Biomedical Informatics and professor in the Department of Pediatrics.

He also serves as lead curator for research for the Enterprise Data Warehouse. Through it, Davis said, “UT researchers will have access to more patient data than ever before, allowing for project collaboration and the development of products and solutions for patients and our community, no matter their physical location.”

CTN2’s leadership includes Phil Cestaro, president and CEO of TriMetis Life Sciences and UTHSC’s new associate vice chancellor for research and business development. He’ll serve as the venture’s executive director responsible for the overall leadership of CTN2, including overseeing the budget and the procurement of new clinical trial projects, among other activities.

Dr. Ari VanderWalde will serve as CTN2’s medical director.

“On March 23, the board of trustees approved the first million dollars out of $3 million to transfer from UT to the research foundation to CTN2,” Goodman said. “There’s an agreement between CTN2 and the research foundation, which I’ve already signed. I’m expecting that by late May, we’ll already be taking in our first clinical trials through CTN2. And then we’ll really be on our way.”

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