On average, 24 years pass before a major scientific discovery makes its way from the research laboratory to patient care settings. The College of Pharmacy is working to speed up this process by joining forces with other University of Texas institutions to establish a new doctoral program in translational science.
The college joins UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), UT San Antonio (UTSA), and the UT School of Public Health - San Antonio Regional Campus in announcing the creation of a Ph.D. degree program in translational science, a term used to describe the bridge between scientific discovery and patient care application. Students in the program can begin coursework as early as Fall 2012.
"The college is excited about the potential that this program has to accelerate the application of new research findings to patient care. This program will combine the strength in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences at UT Austin with the clinical science resources at UTHSCSA," said Dr. Lynn Crismon, dean of the College of Pharmacy. "The college has a longstanding partnership with the Health Science Center and is fully integrated into San Antonio research activities so we are positioned to see this program get underway by next fall."
Students in the program will take 24 hours of core curriculum before moving into one of two tracks - the first that teaches translation of science from basic discovery to clinical trials, or a second that teaches movement of discoveries from clinical trials to community and policy.
Students will enroll in graduate school at their respective UT campus, but the program will be granted collectively by the college, the UTHSCSA and UTSA with participation by the School of Public Health. Although the college is the UT Austin home for the joint degree program, faculty members in other departments on campus have the opportunity to participate as well. The new program joins fewer than 20 translational science Ph.D. programs across the country.
"This translational science Ph.D. program will blend the strengths of each university to enhance the research and interprofessional graduate training of the University of Texas System," said Dr. David Burgess, head of the college's Pharmacotherapy Division who played a leading role in developing the program.
"Today, antimicrobial resistance is a major public health crisis with limited new antibiotics being developed each year," Burgess continued in citing one example where graduates of the new degree program will make a difference. "This program will break down barriers to allow and encourage researchers to work together as a team of scientist to find faster and betters way to treat patients with a resistant bacteria."
Translational scientists work to improve health care delivery, patient outcomes and community health by working as members of teams and interacting with scientists from other disciplines, engineers, health care professionals, laboratory and other technicians, health services professionals, administrators and representatives of community organizations. Translational research takes bench science to clinical trials in humans, and takes results from clinical trials to patient care. These experiences, in turn, provide information for conducting better basic research and clinical research. Graduates will be prepared for research careers in academia, industry, health agencies, regulatory agencies, the military and research institutes, among other settings.
"The translational science Ph.D. is a pivotal addition to the training armamentarium of The University of Texas System," said Dr. Kenneth I. Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs with the UT System. "The collaboration among the UT institutions' faculty and administration members has been outstanding in establishing this unique graduate program."
It is the first new Ph.D. program involving the Health Science Center in eight years, said Dr. Michael Lichtenstein, director of research education, training and career development for the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science at the Health Science Center (CTSA).
"The goal of the CTSA is to transform academic health centers so that they will accelerate the pace and application of discovery, resulting in improved health for the public," Dr. Lichtenstein said. "The translational science Ph.D. is a linchpin of our push to make lives better and represents a sizable investment of time, people and resources by the four UT institutions."
"The health problems in today's populations, such as diabetes and obesity, will require collaborative translational efforts from research disciplines at all levels of the scientific and translation continuum," said Dr. Dorothy Flannagan, dean of the UTSA Graduate School. "This joint, collaborative degree program combines resources to break down barriers, promote team science, and educate scientists who will impact human health in and beyond Texas."
Currently two other translational science Ph.D. programs are offered in Texas, one at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston and the other at Baylor College of Medicine. Only two additional programs are located in a 12-state region surrounding Texas and only 17 are offered nationwide.
"Consistent with the National Institutes of Health's design of the CTSA program, both types of translational scientists are needed to ensure that worthy discoveries advance at a prodigious clip to the communities where people need them," said Dr. Patricia Hurn, associate vice chancellor for health science research at the UT System.
"Translational science is multidirectional, because community needs such as childhood obesity help set research agendas for understanding root causes, not only at the basic biologic level but at environmental and policy levels, as well," said Dr. Sharon Cooper, regional dean of the UT School of Public Health in San Antonio.