University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

UCSF Award Program Guides Promising Early-Stage Research Toward Patient Benefit

CTSI Catalyst Awards Expand Focus to Digital Health, Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Devices

By | March 21, 2013

UCSF Award Program Guides Promising Early-Stage Research Toward Patient Benefit

UCSF leaders and a special guest gather at Byers Hall to see presentations by Catalyst Award finalists on Feb. 8. From left, June Lee, director of CTSI’s Early Translational Research program; Erik Lium, director of UCSF’s Office of Innovation, Technology and Alliances; Jeffrey Bluestone, UCSF Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost; Tadataka Yamada, executive vice president of Takeda Pharmaceuticals; and Keith Yamamoto, UCSF Vice Chancellor of Research.

An innovative project to develop a potential therapy to treat a wide range of cancers has won a major UC San Francisco award that aims to drive promising early-stage research through the complex process of translating ideas into patient benefit.

The Catalyst Awards, which combine funding with customized expert feedback and advice, announced winners for its Fall 2012 cycle. Funded by UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the awards focus on the development of four areas: therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, and now also digital health.

This cycle’s top, $100,000 award went to Mary Nakamura, MD, an associate professor in residence in the UCSF School of Medicine. Funding for her proposal – “A Recombinant Fusion Protein that redirects VEGF to actively kill cancer cells: R1FasL” – will support additional research to test the efficacy and safety of using an artificial protein, known as R1FasL, in cancer treatment.

“I think [the Catalyst Award program] creates a target for people who have innovative ideas to help move their work forward. That just hasn’t existed in academia before,” said Keith Yamamoto, PhD, vice chancellor for research at UCSF and one of several UCSF leaders on hand for presentations by the 20 Catalyst Award finalists.

Benefiting from a Multidisciplinary Team of Advisors

The CTSI Catalyst Award program is part of a campus-wide effort to fulfill UCSF’s vision of being the world preeminent health sciences innovator, according to June Lee, MD, director of CTSI’s Early Translational Research (ETR) program, which manages and funds the award program. That includes collaborating with the thriving biotech industry in the Bay Area and other campus partners such as UCSF’s Innovation, Technology and Alliances and the California Institute of Quantitative Biosciences (QB3).