UC BRAID Discusses New System-Wide Tactics for Accelerating Biomedical Research

UC BRAID consortium leaders (from left): Rachael Sak, RN, MPH (Director), Dan M. Cooper, MD (UCI), Steven M. Dubinett, MD (UCLA), Jennifer Grandis (UCSF), Lars Berglund, MD, PhD (UCD), Deborah Grady, MD (UCSF) & Gary Firestein, MD (UCSD), not pictured.

The University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration and Development (UC BRAID) convened for its 6th annual retreat on October 16, 2015 with plans to take on new projects that address obstacles to research.  Held in Sacramento and hosted by UC Davis, close to 100 faculty and staff from UC’s five medical campuses were on hand. 

Lars Berglund, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for research at UC Davis, and Rachael Sak, RN, MPH, director of UC BRAID, kicked off the meeting by proclaiming that now is the time for UC BRAID to take on new, larger projects that build on the foundation the group has already established.

“This annual event continues to breed opportunities for collaboration across and between UC campuses. The synergy exhibited is an impressive example of collegiality and gains in system efficiency. Working together to improve processes and capabilities, we are stronger than any single institution – the power of teamwork is evident and BRAID truly serves as a national model,” said Berglund.

UC BRAID has become a nationally-recognized model for multi-institution collaboration, said Jack Stobo, senior vice president of UC Health.  Stobo spoke about how UC BRAID fits into UC Health’s strategy of a system-wide approach to advance health, specifically highlighting the group’s work in driving single Institutional Review Board (IRB) review for multisite studies, and big data initiatives.

The potential value generated from UC BRAID’s system-wide approach is what excites Atul Butte, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at UC San Francisco (UCSF) and executive director of Clinical Informatics at UC Health.  Butte delivered the keynote address, “Precisely Practicing Medicine from 700 Million Points of UC Data”, which highlighted how federal, state and UC-wide efforts are converging in precision medicine.

“It’s the perfect time for precision medicine, and the UC system is uniquely positioned to lead this effort. Our aim now is to uncover all sources of data residing in each campus – research data, molecular measures, clinical data, and even genomic sequence data, which is getting cheaper to acquire – and put those into an accessible knowledge network leveraging our IT expertise so that it can be applied to our healthcare system.”

Butte’s ultimate goal is to get to the point where all 14 million patients in the UC system can be tracked in a manner that will allow their providers to predict what diseases or conditions they are susceptible to and administer appropriate interventions that improve health.  This effort will leverage UC BRAID’s framework for collaboration and previous data sharing initiatives, such as the UC-wide electronic medical records data querying tool, UC ReX.

Together we are addressing the toughest obstacles standing in the way of research, fully recognizing that a collaborative, system-wide approach is the best strategy...
Jennifer Grandis, MD

To set the stage for moderated breakout sessions, the retreat spotlighted two demonstration projects selected by the State of California to receive a total of $2.4MM in funding as part of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. The California Kids Cancer Comparison and Diagnosis of Acute Infectious Diseases both leverage UC’s expansive and diverse patient data and research expertise. With an eye to such projects, the breakout discussions included:

Clinical Trials Participant Recruitment

Tactics to facilitate faster accruals to clinical trials included standardizing and modernizing a clinical trials website tool for patients, a public awareness campaign to drive patient interest in the value of research, creating a repository of IRB-approved recruitment materials and templates for use by study teams, and a centralized body that assists investigators in setting up multi-center trials.

Drug and Product Development

Ideas to accelerate the pace at which new discoveries make their way into clinical practice included testing different models for pushing forward promising projects, providing business education and entrepreneurial training to bench scientists to assist them in identifying and developing commercially valuable projects, and establishing a single point of contact in the UC system for industry contracting.


Noting biobanking’s role in precision medicine, the breakout discussion identified a number of tactical opportunities to coordinate on biospecimen collection and data sharing.  These included making patient consent language consistent across campuses, harmonizing data elements to enable virtual sharing of biospecimens and connecting biospecimen data management systems.

UCSF’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Clinical and Translational Research Jennifer Grandis, MD, said, “The work that UC BRAID facilitates is at the heart of UC’s efforts to advance the health of Californians and the nation. Together we are addressing the toughest obstacles standing in the way of research, fully recognizing that a collaborative, system-wide approach is the best strategy for making the fastest, most fundamental advancements in health.”

View the agenda and presentations from the 2015 UC BRAID Retreat

Story Photo by Nate Buscher, UC BRAID

Event Photos 

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