When the Oklahoma Clinical and Translational Resources (OSCTR) began, Oklahoma had a talented medical research community, but lacked opportunities to address Oklahoma’s biggest health concerns. To make discoveries that would improve patient care and health, we needed new facilities, stronger collaborations, intentional mentoring, and focused institutional support.

With IDeA funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the OSCTR has forged new partnerships to stimulate research that would improve health and healthcare for Oklahomans. The efforts of the OSCTR Partners and Affiliate Partners extend statewide, allowing us to reach medically underserved Oklahomans in our rural and tribal populations.

 

Cultivating a fertile research environment

We have seen a steady increase in NIH research funding to OSCTR partners, which does not include funding for the OSCTR itself. This corresponds to an increase in new awards to OSCTR partners, with growth at multiple partners such as OSU-Stillwater, OSU-Center for Health Sciences, the OKC VA Hospital, and the Cherokee Nation. To further enhance this growth, we are building more opportunities for collaboration across OSCTR partner institutions and with other IDeA programs. OSCTR leaders are actively involved in the IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network (ISPCTN), the IDeA-CTR Professional Development Leadership Group, and other collaborative IDeA-CTR efforts, and serve as external advisors for other CTRs and COBREs.

 

Developing Independent CTR Investigators

During the first six years of the OSCTR, we have supported 35 new investigators with pilot grants, mentoring, human subjects research support, and collaborations. Since their initial funding, these first 35 OSCTR pilot investigators have garnered $25.1 M as Principal Investigators (including as MPIs, Subcontract PIs, or CoBRE Junior PIs) on federal grant funding, representing a $10 return on every $1.00 of OSCTR pilot funds invested. Nearly one-third of our funded investigators (30.5%) were from under-represented populations, with most of these individuals being citizens of American Indian (AI) tribes, one of the most under-represented minority groups with regards to NIH funding and in service as tenured medical school faculty. Over 50% of our funded investigators were female.

 

Leveraging OSCTR Infrastructure and Expertise for Public Health

The OSCTR has built substantial infrastructure to identify research questions that impact the health of Oklahomans, and to then disseminate research findings to healthcare providers and communities. We are leveraging these resources to address the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. OSCTR leaders helped develop and implement a novel SARS-CoV-2 testing method that is faster than other methods, with a capacity for several hundred samples each day. We have also been in conversation with other IDeA states to help them implement similar processes. We have helped provide accurate, current information about COVID-19 for primary care providers throughout the state by connecting local infectious disease specialists and telehealth providers, sharing research findings on the Research to Practice to Research Exchange, and serving on the COVID-19 Response Task Force for OUHSC and OU Medicine. To support needed research about this emerging infection, we are developing new repositories and helping researchers secure funding to better understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent COVID-19.