Research — Featured News

Supporting translational science

The Department of Surgery strongly supports translational research from bench science through population-level investigations. Yet, today, its research landscape is changing as competition for funding grows and the department’s faculty look for innovative ways to translate scientific knowledge into clinical advances.

Basic and translational research

Despite a challenging funding environment, the department has more than $26 million in basic and translational research support and 125 peer-reviewed, investigator-initiated grants. Although the department continues to receive notable basic research funding, the NIH is placing greater emphasis on applied research, so many surgeons are following suit.

“In the past, a surgeon might just do basic research,” says Vice Chair for Research William Gillanders, MD. “But now that type of funding is harder to get, and surgeons are seeking translational research opportunities.”

Clinical research

The department strengthened its approach to clinical trials by forming the Clinical Research and Data Management (CRDM) office, which serves as an interface between investigators, regulatory officials and sponsors. Services include education, mentorship and guidance for staff regarding study start-up, subject recruitment, billing policies, and quality assurance for data collection and entry. The CRDM also has developed internal educational and training programs and standards on improving Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training and quality assurance. Over the past five years, the number of clinical trials has risen exponentially to more than 400, and funding has grown to almost $3.6 million.

Public health research

The Division of Public Health Sciences began in 2010 under Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH. Colditz has since recruited more than 20 faculty, including epidemiologists, health educators and specialists in outcomes research methods. The division conducts studies at the population level and is a major resource for faculty throughout the medical school.

“If we are going to move to a population-based health-care system, having a public health sciences division will be critically important,” says department Chair Timothy Eberlein, MD.


Department hallmark: multidisciplinary collaboration

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Collaboration is a key component of all stages of translational research.

A key to success for many Department of Surgery researchers is collaboration with other departments and institutions. Prominent examples include:

P30 Cancer Center Support Grant, led by department Chair Timothy Eberlein, MD. This award covers six schools within Washington University, 25 university departments and a formal consortium with Saint Louis University.

Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Chief Susan Mackinnon, MD, Amy Moore, MD, and Matthew Wood, PhD, have established collaborations with the Department of Biomedical Engineering to use tissue engineering approaches to improve peripheral nerve regeneration.

Vice Chair for Research William Gillanders, MD, and Robert Schreiber, PhD, Alumni Professor of Pathology and Immunology, have studied the role of mutant tumor antigens in the response to checkpoint blockade therapy.