CTSA Hubs are uniquely positioned to lead the response to a national health crisis such as COVID-19

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As a result of the CTSA Program’s objective to strengthen multidisciplinary research infrastructure, hubs are uniquely poised to mobilize their vast resources to produce a rapid, nimble, multi-faceted approach to national public health emergencies. The Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences, the CTSA grantee at Washington University in St. Louis, is a critical contributor to the university’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Our efforts focused on nine primary domains: leadership, research prioritization and coordination, community engagement, policy, pilot funding opportunities, biospecimen collection, communications, informatics, and participation in national trials. Ethical considerations are evaluated within each domain. ICTS leadership was crucial to organizing a review structure to prioritize and coordinate proposed COVID-19 research at Washington University Medical School. ICTS Director, William Powderly, MD, is included on a three-person governance committee that coordinates all COVID-19 research initiatives. This committee reports directly to the Dean of the School of Medicine and oversees three subcommittees focused on basic, clinical, and informatics research. Christina Gurnett, MD, PhD, ICTS Associate Director, Philip Payne, PhD, Informatics Lead, and Suresh Vedantham, MD, Network Capacity lead, provide essential leadership to these review committees and rapidly respond to investigators’ needs. Our extensive connections to all aspects of the research enterprise enabled us to coordinate scientific review, grants and contracts, human research protections, recruitment, informatics, and technology transfer to ensure a streamlined approach to rapidly executing COVID-19 research. Our informatics infrastructure and expertise were not only instrumental in providing services for COVID-19 research, but in leading the effort to collect, harmonize, and analyze COVID-19 testing data for the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Involving community stakeholders in this process is crucial to success; we have regularly consulted our Community Advisory Board on issues such as recruitment of underrepresented minorities for COVID-19 vaccination trials, return of results for treatable genetic conditions revealed during COVID-19 research, and testing in schools for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Continuation of these processes will advantageously position us to successfully confront future public health crises.

William G.
Powderly, MD
Associate Director