UC BRAID Celebrates Successes, Looks Ahead

UC BRAID leaders (from left) Clay Johnston (UCSF), Dan M. Cooper (UCI), Gary S. Firestein (UCSD), Lars Berglund (UCD), and Steven M. Dubinett (UCLA), with Steven Beckwith, UC Office of the President. (Photo: Christina McCabe)
October 23, 2013

The path forward is clear: To continue and enhance the development of a robust coordinating center that combines the individual University of California (UC) health campuses into a model virtual biomedical research institution.

That’s the conclusion reached by representatives of the University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration, and Development (UC BRAID) program during an annual retreat held at UC San Diego on October 15. About 70 translational medicine researchers, administrative leaders, staff and faculty representing seven UC campuses met to discuss next steps along the path, identify potential research intersections and share the achievements for UC BRAID.

“The largest role for BRAID is enabling partnerships, and that will help us reach our goal of reducing barriers to biomedical research,” said Gary S. Firestein, MD, UC BRAID chair, director of UC San Diego’s Clinical and Translational Research Institute and dean and associate vice chancellor of translational medicine at UC San Diego.

Established in 2010, UC BRAID, in collaboration with the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), is a joint effort of the five UC biomedical campuses to catalyze, accelerate, and reduce the barriers for biomedical, clinical, and translational research across the UC system. The UC BRAID consortium — UC’s Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco — pools data, resources and expertise to reach this goal. UC Riverside and Santa Cruz also participated in this year’s UC BRAID meeting.

Major successes of UC BRAID highlighted at the 2013 retreat include:

  • UC-Research eXchange consortium (UC-ReX): UC BRAID launched the consortium’s first tool from UC ReX, namely the Data Explorer, building the first cross-campus clinical query system capable of exchanging patient-level data, as well as aggregates (counts and descriptive statistics). The UC ReX Data Explorer enables search of 12 million de-identified patient records from the five UC medical centers with one query.
  • U54 Center for Accelerated Innovation (CAI): NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute awarded $12 million to UC to create a Center for Accelerated Innovation (CAI). UC BRAID oversees this new center aimed at translating innovations into improved health.

“An important part of UC BRAID’s mission is to improve UC collaborative research opportunities. UC ReX is a great example of how UC BRAID accomplishes this,” said Firestein, who went on to laud the CAI as a UC BRAID accomplishment. “The new U54 CAI is a remarkable example of inter-institutional collaboration.” Michael Palazzolo, MD, a Professor of Medicine at UCLA, is the principal investigator for CAI.

Dr. Firestein and UC Braid Executive Director Rachael Sak, RN, MPH, gave presentations about how UC BRAID takes research from silos to collaboration and how to leverage the program. Firestein cited examples of silos in academic medicine as multiple cores performing the same service, different IT systems in clinical research, and resistance to central institutional review boards.

He emphasized the urgency of change, building a guiding team and getting the vision right. “We must empower change, remove obstacles, and reward progress,” the UC BRAID chair said.

Clay Johnston, MD, PhD, a member of the UC BRAID Executive Committee and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at UCSF, added that UC BRAID realizes its vision by identifying areas of collaboration, aligning across multi-campus initiatives, and evaluating priorities and making funding recommendations. “We were established to identify and address, on a system-wide level, the shared challenges of academic translational science,” he said.

Other key topics at the retreat included biorepositories, contracting, regulatory, and drug and device discovery and development. Participants also discussed the new BRAID Child Health Initiative to expand research for the pediatric population. View presentations and agenda

UCSF's CTSI is a member of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant Number UL1 TR000004) at the National Institutes of Health. Under the banner of "Accelerating Research to Improve Health," CTSI provides a wide range of resources and services for researchers, and promotes online collaboration and networking tools such as UCSF Profiles.