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Welcome to the Science in Translation Podcast

Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute is launching its first podcast, Science in Translation. Find out more about this new show in an interview with Richard D'Aquila, MD, Director of NUCATS.


Erin Spain, MS [00:00:03] Welcome to Science in Translation, a podcast from NUCATS, Northwestern University, Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. I'm your host, Erin Spain. Before we jump into our first season of this podcast, we want to give you a preview of what to expect. Joining me with details is Dr. Richard D'Aquila, Professor of Medicine and the Division of Infectious Diseases at Northwestern and Director of NUCATS. Welcome to the podcast. 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:00:33] Hi, Erin it's great to be with you. 

Erin Spain, MS [00:00:35] So I want to ask you about the name of the show, Science in Translation. What does that mean to you? 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:00:41] It's not about language translation. It's about moving scientific discoveries from wherever they happen, whether it's our research laboratory, a public health setting, a hospital where they're learning from continuously improving their procedures, translating that new knowledge in a way that will impact health. That's the translation that NUCATS is designed to do. And the whole point is to improve health for everybody. We have to make sure that the way we do translation benefits the entire community. It's not reserved for one segment. It's for all.

Erin Spain, MS [00:01:29] What should listeners expect to hear during this first season of science and translation? 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:01:36] You'll hear stories from the real people in academic medicine, how they got interested in translation, what their career trajectory has been like, and really give you an insider's view of what it takes to move a discovery into a practical improvement in health. 

Erin Spain, MS [00:01:59] I'm sure a lot of younger people who are interested in science and becoming scientists will be listening to the show. But other people who are just interested in health might also want to listen. How is the show appealing to just the everyday person who's interested in what's going on in the headlines when it comes to health? 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:02:15] You know, there's a lot that doesn't get covered in the headlines or even in more in-depth stories. It takes many years to move knowledge into a generally applicable form. Not only is there really important basic discovery going on in a laboratory, but then there has to be clinical trials to rigorously see whether something works in people. After that, and this is often one of the hardest steps, something that's been proven to be effective, like a new medication or some helpful software for your health. It's proven to work, but it often doesn't get used by practicing clinicians, and the public may not know about it. So, there's a very important role for what's called dissemination and implementation sciences, so that what we know works will actually be used. And then finally, we want to learn by measuring the impact of these new health innovations on health itself for the population. We want to make sure that it really is helping every segment of the population that needs it. So, there's this connection to public health authorities and to documenting the impact on health. 

Erin Spain, MS [00:03:46] For those who may not know, NUCATS is funded by a grant from the NIH, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and it's part of a national network of CTSA hubs. Now, you're up for a grant renewal right now. Tell me, what might the next version of NUCATS look like? Is it going to remain the same? Is it going to be different? 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:04:08] All of the good stuff will still be there, but we're going to be adding a lot of new bells and whistles. To be specific, the funding agency and CATS for short, has changed the ground rules. We have always been expected to provide resources and collaboration tools so that our researchers and implementation scientists and practicing providers can all work together and have tools that they need to do their work. But now, what we're charged with is continuing to do that and continuing to improve all that, but also testing how well those tools work in translation. So, can we come up with tools and resources and methods that will speed translation so we can move new innovations from the lab into health care more quickly and also with better reach so no one is left out of it?

Erin Spain, MS [00:05:16] NUCATS has a tremendous impact on the Northwestern community. Tell me about that. Tell me about some of the partners within the different health care systems and who else NUCATS interacts with. 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:05:27] We partner with all of the clinical affiliates here at Feinberg. So, the Northwestern Medicine system, the Lurie Children's Hospital, the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, we have very strong partnerships with the Chicago Department of Public Health. We also really closely collaborate with our colleagues in the other two CTSA hubs here in Chicago. Actually, Chicago is known nationally as really the only city and the best example of multiple CTSA hubs working together. So there's a hub at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and another one based at the University of Chicago and Rush and Advocate. And it also includes Loyola and the Illinois Institute of Technology. So, all those three CTSA hubs meet together, work together on community engaged research, on improving recruitment into clinical trials. And we're constantly thinking about other ways in which we can collaborate citywide, and we're always finding and building new partnerships. So, we're in the process now of building more collaborations with the Chicago Biomedical Consortium. That's a really fabulous resource for all of Chicago that helps advance entrepreneurship, because if we make discoveries in our academic settings, the best way to get them used is to have them be commercialized and to be available widely everywhere. And that's the mission of the CBC, and we're very eager to collaborate more with them. 

Erin Spain, MS [00:07:26] How do you want people to feel when they walk away from one of these episodes, from listening? What do you hope they take away? 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:07:31] I hope they think, “Oh, I didn't know that. That's something new.” 

Erin Spain, MS [00:07:35] It's all about learning, right? 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:07:36] That's exactly it. Well, and, you know, that's what drives people who are interested in translation. We are learning every single day and we love it. And that's the kind of excitement and passion I hope we can convey to our listeners. 

Erin Spain, MS [00:07:52] Thank you so much for coming on the show and giving our listeners a chance to find out what to expect and the episodes to come. 

Richard D'Aquila, MD. [00:07:59] You're welcome. It's been fun talking to you, Erin. 

Erin Spain, MS [00:08:06] Subscribe to Science in Translation wherever you listen to your podcasts. To find out more about NUCATS, check out our website, 

The Science in Translation podcast is supported, in part, by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Grant Number UL1TR001422. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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