Scripps Translational Science Institute gets $29M from NIH

By Jonah Comstock
Dr. Eric Topol Dr. Eric Topol

Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), the San Diego-based collaboration between Scripps Health and the Scripps Research Institute, has received a $29 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant, called the Clinical and Translational Science Award, is the largest single grant the NIH issues, according to Scripps Health Chief Academic Officer Dr. Eric Topol, who leads the Institute.

"We look at it as a real validation of what we're doing, that we can compete with places like Harvard and Stanford and really top flight centers," Topol told MobiHealthNews. "We still are the only non-university member of this consortium."

Back in 2008, STSI received a similar grant from NIH in the amount of $20 million. Topol said that the process has changed so much in the meantime that the new funding shouldn't be considered a renewal. Fifteen research centers received varying amounts of funding from CTSAs this week, bringing the total number of centers funded by the program to 61.

Topol said that in order to secure the grant, the Institute had to specify particular research areas that would be distinct from other centers that applied.

"Obviously for us, we already had a fair amount of grounding and background in genomics," he told MobiHealthNews. "In recent years we've really been pushing on wireless sensors in all aspects of medicine. And the other part of this is informatics, and all the massive data that comes from both sensors as well as sequencing. There's 60 of these centers. Each place puts in what they believe they are uniquely suited to contribute, not just in San Diego, but also from a national point of view. What can we do that has a really important impact?"

STSI will use the funding to continue the many research projects it has underway, including the Wellderly study of the genomes of exceptionally healthy 80-year-olds and to launch further digital health studies similar to the Wired for Health trial sponsored by a $3.75 million grant from the Qualcomm Foundation.

Topol said the Wired for Health study is "a little challenging because it's fully operational, but it's taught us about when you work with multiple sensors, companies, platforms, how you can get all that data displayed in one single dashboard. And as we go forward it's not going to be just one sensor, but many different pieces that are woven together."

Part of being in the consortium also means collaborating with the other research centers, something Topol says the center hopes to do more of in the future. He said he hopes to see more digital health trials spread out across the country, as well as Scripps possibly playing host to other trials.

"[This grant] gives us a tremendous boost for this innovative, creative way of supporting efforts at Scripps Health and Scripps Research Institute," Topol said. "It gives us the critical support we need to do big things. You can do things incrementally at small support levels, but now we have and exceptionally strong support we're ambitious to do some stronger things to advance personalized medicine, whether it's with genomics or with sensors. That's our real theme and we needed this strong support to be able to execute it."