Research center opens at UMN, simplifying research development

The Clinical Research Support Center opened on Sept. 4

Lew Blank

In an effort to help them through difficult procedures in the clinical research process, a new center supporting researchers opened at the University of Minnesota last week.

The Clinical Research Support Center, located in Diehl Hall, was initiated by the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. With seven conference rooms, four partners and 20 expert groups providing advice, the CRSC was created to expedite the complicated process of taking a study from the page to publication.

“Clinical researchers themselves have described the [clinical research] process as quote unquote ‘spaghetti,’” said Brook Matthiesen, communications manager of CTSI. “All four partners are coming together in this new center and working collaboratively with a team-based approach that helps ‘de-spaghetti,’ if you will, the process.”

The development of clinical research publications typically entails a slew of requirements and regulations, including trial design, statistics, institutional review board submissions, budgets and material transfers.

“In the clinical research world, there’s a lot of different regulations and approvals and steps that need to happen, and the environment changes a lot,” said Lisa Johnson, who helps manage the CRSC. “The FDA, NIH, [and] different funders keep having new rules or guidance or needs.”

In the past, researchers would use long email chains to contact experts who would help them solve problems in the clinical research process, which was inefficient for investigators.

Now that the CRSC can place resources for investigators in one facility, the new center can serve as a one-stop shop for answering clinical research questions.

“The idea was to make it easy for the investigators … and have a co-localization of experts in all the different components that would be necessary to efficiently move forward toward clinical studies or clinical trials,” said Bruce Blazar, the director of CTSI. “[The CRSC has] allowed the people there to organize a SWAT team-like approach to bring the experts in the various areas together.”

When investigators enter the CRSC in need of assistance, they will be greeted by a receptionist, who connects them with a clinical research specialist in one of the seven conference rooms. 

After discussing the researcher’s needs, the specialist will introduce them to a representative from one of the CRSC’s 20 expert groups, who will provide expertise to address their concerns.

This gathering of resources in a single physical location is key to reducing the amount of unnecessary time that researchers spend on procedural tasks, Johnson said.

“[The CRSC is] trying to maximize the investigator’s time and minimize the number of emails or times going back for clarification,” she said.

Overall, this simplification of the clinical research process will help keep investigators more focused on their research, something that Blazar said he believes will be a source of encouragement.

“You want to make this easy for the investigators and the staff. Otherwise they’ll be discouraged,” Blazar said.