Preparedness, Capacity, and Adaptability at the NYU CTSI in the Time of COVID-19

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Deborah Chavis-Keeling, MS, is the Executive Director of Administration and Finance at the NYU–H+H Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Deb has been a part of the CTSI since its founding in June 2009, and before that at the GCRC since 2006. She is exceptionally positioned to describe how the CTSI was uniquely equipped to tackle the challenges faced through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why and how was the CTSI uniquely prepared to handle and respond to the COVID-19 crisis?
Being uniquely qualified goes back to our history of how the institution responded to and recovered from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. NYU Langone Health (NYULH) implemented regulatory and clinical measures and looked to the CTSI to guide in the implementation. Due to this, we were able to “put the hat back on” and ramp up accordingly when the pandemic hit. Our preparedness allowed us to be more adaptable to what the particular need was that arose. Some examples of this include: (1) an in-house, institution-wide DSMB, (2) leveraging partnerships, (3) cataloging all SOPs, (4) adapting the scientific review committee to approve requests (biospecimens, data) more rapidly, (5) developing consistent GCP, (6) utilizing the SMART IRB reliance agreements for cross-collaborative projects.

How has being part of the NCATS CTSA consortium properly aligned our hub to respond to the COVID-19 crisis?
Collegiality within the consortium serves as an incredible resource, especially in this time of need. To be able to reach out to others across the US and come together to share ideas and best practices with various levels of expertise (PI, Administrative/Operational, Evaluation, Education, Informatics, Funding Community Engagement, etc.) is a tremendous benefit. We are leveraging the relationships that we’ve been establishing and cultivating for over 10 years within the consortium, our institution, and our partners:

Consortium: Regional Tri-State Hubs (Cornell, Einstein, Columbia, Mt. Sinai, Rockefeller, Rochester, Buffalo, Rutgers, Yale) – having existing networks nationally allowed us to tap into these relationships to put together an administrative supplement with regional informatics networks across our TRICON group.

Institution: Mulligan Vaccine Trial recruitment, which is now guided by our CTSI Community Engagement core who are leading the charge in going out to our communities in order to build trust and recruit into the trial.

Partners: Our clinical partner, NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H), provided NYU investigators the opportunities to open up their studies to a wider audience and space. Building these relationships and trust over the years means we can leverage each other’s strengths when needs arise.

How will emergency preparedness and procedure development play a role in how the CTSI operates going forward?
It will be vital to move forward from this and not just put a band-aid on the things that need to be fixed in the short-term. We will be using the measures and procedures developed now to be ready to adapt them to anything that happens in the future. Efficiency was key to ramping up and sustaining processes during the crisis at NYULH and the CTSI played a major role in that. It is extremely important to take a step back, learn, and continually grow from what did not go right the first time so we can get it right the next time. It is also essential to hear about the relatable experiences of our peers from all levels. Dissemination of best practices and impact is also key (channel, language, POV) depending on the audience.

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 1: Train and Cultivate the Translational Science Workforce
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process
Goal 3: Promote the Integration of Special and Underserved Populations in Translational Research Across the Human Lifespan
Goal 4: Innovate Processes to Increase the Quality and Efficiency of Translational Research, Particularly of Multisite Trials
Goal 5: Advance the Use of Cutting-Edge Informatics