Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Catalyst Program and Pediatrics

James Perrin, MD

James Perrin, MD

The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (a.k.a. Harvard Catalyst) is a University-wide endeavor to expand clinical and translational health care-related research at Harvard.  Built on the substantial history of clinical research activities at several Harvard hospitals, including the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst includes essentially all Harvard schools and hospitals, as well as other key community partners.  Much program effort has gone into fostering greater collaboration across sites and, even more, across disciplines. 

Harvard Catalyst has stimulated a number of important joint ventures, varying from efforts to develop common IRB mechanisms to multi-institution research databases, built in part on the model of the Research Patient Data Registry pioneered by Partners Health Care.  The Harvard Catalyst effort, as well as other NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science programs in Boston and nationally, is working to develop new methods of bringing clinical research to community settings and expanding efforts at community-based participatory research. 

The current Harvard Catalyst structure includes several overarching programs developing common strategies in areas such as bioinformatics, ethics, community interventions, education, biostatistics, faculty development and diversity, education, and translational technologies. Harvard Catalyst’s efforts in biostatistics have helped the MGH and other centers make statistical support more available for clinical research, including grant development and related consultations at the MGH.  Dianne Finkelstein, PhD, serves as MGH’s key link these biostatistical services.  The numerous Harvard Catalyst programs also include one to guide pediatric activities, chaired by Ellis Neufeld, MD, from Children’s Hospital Boston, and co-chaired by James Perrin, MD, from MGHfC.  Lynne Levitsky, MD, also represents MGHfC on the pediatric committee.

The Participant and Clinical Interactions Resource (PCIR) program incorporates the former Clinical Research Centers at MGH, other Harvard hospitals, and MIT. Madhu Misra, MD, who serves as the MGH site associate director for the PCIR, brings a key pediatric link to these efforts.  The PCIR carries out a number of pediatric protocols and has much interest in expanding its pediatric portfolio of projects, and Madhu, with the multidisciplinary staff of the PCIR, can provide guidance on potential pediatric projects. The CRC at MGH provides nursing, bionutrition and ancillary support for protocols, and is a very useful resource for young investigators.

Harvard Catalyst makes funding available to investigators from across Harvard, including MGHfC, through its competitive Pilot Grant program, which offers $50,000 for one-year projects. The program supports efforts involving novel, multidisciplinary collaborations, particularly ones that might not come together through more typical funding mechanisms.  These grants provide good opportunities for innovation in clinical research.  MGHfC investigators did well in the initial competition for Harvard Catalyst pilot grants; another competition is currently underway. 

Harvard Catalyst is making improving links among diverse investigators a priority – providing much information about faculty research interests on its website (http://catalyst.harvard.edu) through its Profiles and Medvane tools.  There is also a great deal of effort and interest in education, training, mentoring, and junior faculty development.  Pat Donohoe, MD, represents MGHfC in some of these endeavors.  The program offers mentorship opportunities for faculty, along with some funding for research fellows and junior faculty.  Among these programs is a K12 fellows program, which will likely accept new applications in late summer or fall 2009; the Leder Human Biology PhD Program; a two-year Scholars in Clinical Science program; and a faculty fellowship administered by the Harvard Catalyst Program for Faculty Development and Diversity.

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