The Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) is the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Hub at UAB. Its partners have played an essential role in UAB’s response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The CCTS accelerates discovery across the translational research spectrum to advance insights and innovation to improve health and health equity across the Deep South. The CCTS Partner Network brings together 11 institutions across Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, leveraging the expertise and capacities of each to develop creative approaches to addressing the burden of chronic diseases that disproportionately affect our region.
Working with teams across UAB, the CCTS developed the Enterprise Biorepository & Data Registry, assembling a large cohort of participants and biospecimens to enable investigations of how a range of host characteristics—including genetics, immunity, and social determinants of health—influence the risk of and response to SARS-CoV-2.
Recognizing the importance of understanding population (“herd”) immunity as the pandemic evolved, the CCTS joined with investigators at the Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the NIH to conduct a national seroprevalence survey to identify people with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and better define viral prevalence rates, enrolling over 11,000 participants from across the U.S. and following them for a 12-month period. The study, which appeared in Science Translational Medicine, demonstrated not only the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in persons without a known clinical diagnosis, but also much higher exposure to the virus in medically underserved communities.
The CCTS also works with partners across Alabama and the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center in the NIH-sponsored Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities, reaching out to underserved communities as a priority for testing, participation in clinical trials, and vaccination.
Through initiatives in the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Trial Innovation Network and the CCTS’s Southeast Health Alliance for Research (SHARe), the center bolstered early participation in pivotal multisite studies of convalescent plasma. It also boosted regional participation in the NIH’s Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) series of clinical studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of therapies including monoclonal antibodies, immune modulators, blood thinners, and other repurposed drugs previously approved by the FDA for other indications. And anticipating longer term sequelae of COVID-19, the CCTS and its partners have joined with the Division of Infectious Diseases and Department of Epidemiology to study “long COVID” in the NIH-sponsored RECOVER study.
The past year was also filled with progress in other notable areas. Studies of sleep rhythms and nutrition patterns on cardiometabolic function have been prominent initiatives, anticipating application to hypertension, obesity, and other conditions that disproportionately affect the Southeast. Similarly, CCTS investigators are seeking to better understand individual-, community-, and system-factors associated with racial disparities in pregnancy-related maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity to inform interventions and tools to achieve equity in maternal health. –Katie Bradford, Jennifer Croker, Ph.D., Robert Kimberly, M.D.