The CBCRP completed a comprehensive, three-year priority setting process in 2004 to re-evaluate the progress made during the first decade of our grant funding effort. A new perspective and consensus emerged that allowed the Program to: (i) identify our strengths and weaknesses, (ii) select the areas (research topics and award types) to best leverage our funds for maximum impact over the next 3-5 years, (iii) establish new priorities and directions to impact breast cancer in California, and (iv) place the CBCRP in a unique niche to avoid overlap with other breast cancer funding agencies.
The visible outcome of the 2004 priority setting process was to separate CBCRP’s research activities into three divisions for maximum effectiveness:
- Core Funding to maintain CBCRP’s support for “traditional” research grants in our successful areas of innovative research, career development, and translational research. Many of our previous award types were discontinued.
- Community Initiatives to support and develop CBCRP’s Community Research Collaboration (CRC) funding. These unique partnerships of community-based organizations and researchers is critical for developing evidence-based knowledge needed to change in health policy/health services in California.
- Special Research Initiatives to identify and support new research strategies that both increase knowledge about and create solutions to the environmental causes of breast cancer and the unequal burden of the disease.
As part of the 2004 re-organization, the CBCRP discontinued a number of award types, including the Translational Research Collaboration (TRC) that was offered from 1997 through 2004 (Cycles 3-11). Why was CBCRP unhappy with the previous TRC award type and felt compelled to construct a replacement? After funding TRCs from 1997-2004, the following deficiencies were noted:
- The emphasis on a cross-disciplinary collaboration in the TRCs did not “drive” the translational process. We noted that most of the TRC collaborations were completely unbalanced, with one of the co-PIs assuming a dominant role in the project.
- Most of the TRC-funded projects were basic science, discovery efforts. The review and selection process did not place enough emphasis on identifying the projects that would best deliver a “practical application.” Excellent scientific merit in the peer review was not a guarantee that the “programmatic requirement” for a translational project was being met.
- The TRCs did not require PIs to specifically identify and overcome the barriers to translation. The projects we funded were structured like R01s to address hypotheses and advance knowledge. They were not focused in a forward, translational direction. Difficult solutions for well-recognized hurdles in a given topic were not being attempted.
- The TRC applicants were not required to describe “milestones” or deliverables to be achieved upon completion of the project. Unfortunately, the CBCRP often funded TRC grants that merely led to more research without achieving defined translational milestones.
Thus, the CBCRP advisory Council worked with the Program staff from 2005-2006 to develop a replacement for the TRC award type. These changes emerged from this process:
- The requirement for collaboration in the TRC would be dropped and replaced by an increased emphasis on translation.
- CBCRP developed its own definition of “translational research” that would be meaningful to researchers in the diverse disciplines engaged in breast cancer research and would enable the CBCRP to better evaluate translational research applications.
- The advisory Council would become more proactive in selecting the projects that would be allowed to apply and undergo peer review. This would be accomplished through an LOI process.
- The “critical path” concept that CBCRP uses to select IDEA (innovative) grants would be adapted to help identify the most appropriate translational research projects for various disciplines. This will require applicants to, (i) identify the practical outcome of their research, (ii) propose solutions to translational barriers, and (iii) ensure that prior developmental work has laid the groundwork for a successful translational project.
We hope this background will explain our rationale for the content of the new Translational Research Award and format for the application/review process as presented in the following sections. We encourage you to keep these programmatic issues in mind as you decide whether to apply and develop a strategy to submit an application.