Clinical Research Center

The Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Research Center (CRC), part of the Harvard Catalyst Clinical Research Center, supports federally and privately-funded research projects for investigators conducting patient-oriented research.

The goal of the Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Research Center (CRC), part of the Harvard Clinical Translation Science Center, is to provide a research infrastructure for clinical investigators who conduct patient-oriented research. The CRC can be used by investigators who are supported by the National Institutes of Health, other federal, state and local agencies, foundations, individual departments or by the private sector. The CRC also supports pilot studies that may lead to future NIH or other support.

The clinical research support provided by the CRC includes inpatient and outpatient facilities, and the necessary support personnel, such as research nurses, nurse practitioners, research nutritionists, administrative personnel and others.

CRC nurse with research participant

CRC nurse with a research participant

In addition, the core laboratories perform routine, and specialized analyses and procedures and are available for approved studies.  Metabolism & Nutrition Research support includes prepared research meals, nutritional and metabolic measurements, DXA scans for assessment of bone density and body composition, bioimpedance analysis, anthropometry and exercise testing. Specialized nursing services include sampling of biologic fluids, frequent sampling protocols with maintenance of intravenous and intra-arterial lines, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies, physiologic measurements, sleep studies, administration of research questionnaires, administration of research drugs, and assistance in the collection of a variety of other research data. The nursing staff also ensures subject safety, including routine and specialized surveillance during all research protocols. Research studies that are conducted in locations outside of the CRC, so called “off-site”, can also be supported with CRC resources and staffing.        

The investigations carried out by the CRC can include studies of normal and abnormal human physiology and studies of the cause, prevention, progression, treatment and cure of diseases that afflict individuals from all backgrounds.  Resources are provided to translate basic scientific discoveries into novel diagnostic and therapeutic methods that improve health care. Collaborations between basic and clinical scientists are encouraged.

Protocol applications to the CRC must adhere to NIH guidelines regarding inclusion of children, women and minority populations.

The CRC provides a unique environment for mentored training of health professionals in clinical research. The CRC is funded

Study Staff Nurse Practitioner with a research participant

Study Staff Nurse Practitioner with a research participant

by a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  NCATS provides a comprehensive range of human, technological, and other resources to enable biomedical research advances at approximately 60 sites around the country. In order to promote the mission of the NIH, NCATS seeks scientific knowledge that will promote health and reduce illness and disability in our nation.  

CRC resources are not intended to replace the usual mechanism of grant funding of investigators in aid of biomedical research, or to substitute for departmental facilities which serve individual research needs. The CRC is also not intended to fund clinical research studies fully. Funding for non-clinical aspects of the research studies should be provided by other sources.

In the process of achieving its primary objective, the CRC serves as a resource for teaching and training medical students, residents, fellows, and other health care professionals in the skills of clinical investigation. The CRC funds research fellowships to train potential future clinical investigators.




 HISTORY OF THE CLINICAL RESEARCH CENTER:

The MGH Clinical Research Center (CRC) began as Ward IV in 1925. It was the second center in the United States specifically designed for and dedicated to clinical research. The impetus for its founding came from Joseph Aub, a prominent early clinical investigator, who was supported by James Howard Means, Chief of Medicine at MGH and David Linn Edsall, Dean of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The ward began as just two inpatient beds, accommodating mostly metabolic and endocrine research. Many doctors conducted endocrine research on the ward, including Fuller Albright, the father of endocrinology in the US.

In the 1940s, Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., head of the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company and a college friend of Dr. Albright, funded three additional inpatient beds on the unit. He also started an endowment fund to ensure the continuous operation of Ward IV. As a result of this fund, Ward IV was renovated to include two beds in each of the five inpatient rooms, leading to a total of ten beds. A laboratory, metabolic kitchen, and patient recreation space were also added. In 1949, Ward IV was renamed "Mallinckrodt Ward IV" in honor of Mallinckrodt's contributions.

CRC lab processing

CRC lab processing

By the 1950s, Ward IV researchers had made many significant contributions. In 1957, Means published a book detailing the ward's history, entitled "Ward 4".

In 1978, Ward IV became a General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) supported by the National Center for Research Resources, NIH. In the 1980s, the Mass General GCRC moved from its location on the first floor of the Bulfinch building to its current location on the thirteenth floor of the White building. Facilities include both inpatient and outpatient rooms, specialized research facilities and equipment, expanded space for staff, a core laboratory, and a metabolic kitchen.

The GCRC space in the White building was renovated after 2000 and it expanded further with the acquisition or development

of two new satellites: the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a site at the Charlestown Navy Yard in close proximity to the Martinos Bioimaging Center. The MGH GCRC was one of the first GCRCs in the nation to incorporate an imaging facility, and remains one of the few CTSAs with this technology.

In 2008, the NIH eliminated the GCRC program and established a nationwide program of Clinical and Translational Science Centers (CTSCs) instead. These new grants were awarded at the University level; therefore, the GCRCs of the Harvard Affiliated Hospitals, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Boston Children's Hospital, all began a process of organizing and integrating their functions, and providing more comprehensive services to an increasing population of investigators throughout Harvard. The GCRCs were renamed Clinical Research Centers (CRCs). The Harvard CTSC, called CATALYST, includes new educational programs, an emphasis on community research and many other resources to support human investigation; however the CRCs continue to remain the central component of the program.