Midwest Research Centers Pioneer a Unique Consortium

Midwest Research Centers Pioneer a Unique Consortium

Kickoff at UW-Madison for “MARCH”

This story originally appeared in UW ICTR Today.  Download the full issue.

This story originally appeared in UW ICTR Today.
Download the full issue.

The UW-Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) hosted the initial face-to-face meeting of the Midwest Area Research Consortium for Health (MARCH) on January 23-24. Comprised of institutions that hold NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs), MARCH is dedicated to facilitating multi-site research studies and cross-CTSA collaborations to promote efficient, effective, and demographically-balanced research.

More than 25 attendees represented the six institutions belonging to the consortium: University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, Indiana University, The Ohio State University, Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and UW-Madison. Most CTSA award sites sent the principal investigators of their CTSA grants, as well as administrative leaders, experts in finance, and Institutional Review Board representatives from the individual institutions.

“The formation of MARCH is a seminal event,” says Marc Drezner, MD, ICTR executive director and principal investigator of the UW CTSA grant. “Our new consortium represents an amazing opportunity for cutting edge research to be performed across a wide range of different states, multi-cultural cities, and rural areas. The research strengths of each institution offer the research efficiency and expertise needed in today’s world to both investigator-initiated NIH studies and industry.”

Drezner adds that one of the catalysts for MARCH includes a challenge issued by NIH, which is encouraging regional collaborations for testing new therapeutic and preventive strategies. Investigators of studies that require large numbers of patients, patients with rare diseases, or multi-disciplinary teams will benefit from these collaborations.

Initial Governance

While MARCH is just starting, governance items including a Memorandum of Agreement; an Implementation Plan; subcommittees for operations, fiscal, and research coordination; and a regulatory task force were negotiated prior to the in-person meeting. Breakout sessions during the January meeting concentrated on finalizing many of these initiatives. UW faculty outlined how their respective research studies could benefit from MARCH; examples of transplant/nephrology and pediatric endocrinology were identified.

Drezner was elected to a two-year term as the initial Chair of the MARCH Advisory Committee, by a required, unanimous vote of the CTSA principal investigators. The CTSA principal investigators are also the voting members of the Advisory Committee, which is tasked with review and approval of protocols to utilize MARCH and financial oversight. An essential eligibility requirement for usage of MARCH is that at least two sites must participate in a study.

Debra Kruzer

Debra Kruzer

Debra Kruser, ICTR administrative director of the Wisconsin Network for Health Research (WiNHR), was named administrative director of MARCH by unanimous vote. UW-Madison currently will also serve as the central coordinating center for administration, marketing, and strategic planning for the new organization. The success of the Wisconsin-based WiNHR program contributed to the idea and eventual formation of the Midwest consortium.

Initial Accomplishments

In addition to its main cross-institution study goals, the consortium also intends to offer more facile, cooperative
IRB reviews for studies that use MARCH. Addressing these IRB aspects was a breakout group that included UW Health Sciences IRBs Director Nichelle Cobb, PhD, and Associate Director Carol Pech, PhD, as well as IRB representatives from MARCH institutions.

Kruser comments, “Creating an IRB consortium among the six institutions is an important goal of our collective group. One goal, establishing reciprocal deferral agreements between sites, can be very beneficial to the quick implementation of studies.” She notes, “The WiNHR program utilizes the Wisconsin IRB Consortium (WIC), which is so essential to the efficient review of multi-institution studies. IRB personnel at each MARCH site are directing efforts to create a similar model for MARCH.”

Next Steps

The MARCH principal investigators and/or designees, as well as committees, will continue building the new infrastructure in the coming months. MARCH is now accepting inquiries from investigators planning to submit multi-site studies for future federal funding or from investigators preparing investigator- initiated studies for biopharmaceutical applications. For more information, contact Deb Kruser, djkruser@wisc.edu.

Investigators with current funding should watch for announcements about the rollout of services over the coming year in upcoming UW ICTR Today newsletters or on the ICTR web portal, ictr.wisc.edu.

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