October 3, 2016
In a little more than a month, we will have the distinct opportunity to make several significant decisions having an impact well beyond our UCSF community, and I encourage you to study the candidates and initiatives and exercise your right and privilege to vote.
It will come as no surprise that UC has policies about politics at work, which the chancellor disseminated recently. That said, I feel compelled to delve further into this topic in the Expresso story below. There has never been an election in my lifetime where the differences between the two presidential contenders have been more stark, and the implications for the future of our country more harrowing. So, for the good of our nation, please vote, and consider making the time and effort to directly help the candidates and issues of your choice by giving a financial contribution, volunteering at a campaign call center, or joining the ground game to get out the vote.
Closer to home, I encourage you all to learn about what’s going on at UCSF by attending Chancellor Sam Hawgood’s State of the University Address on October 4.
In addition, my other two topics this month can help your research and academic efforts – one relates to enrollment in clinical trials and the other concerns the licensing of ideas. Please read on:
- Political Advocacy: UC do’s and don’ts
- Help Wanted: How to populate your clinical trial
- Bridging Innovations: Spotlight on the Office of Technology Management
Have an idea for a future topic or one that you would like an update on? Please write to me at [email protected].
Political Advocacy: UC do’s and don’ts
Election Day is fast approaching. (Not fast enough, some would say, either out of anxiety for the results or exhaustion with the campaigns.) You may feel passionately about an issue or candidate on the ballot. (Actually, if you are not passionate about anything related to the elections this year, please let me know – we need to talk!) Paul Takayama, assistant vice chancellor for Community and Government Relations, reminds us about the rules and responsibilities that govern our actions as employees of a major nonprofit, public institution.
“Who we are places certain restrictions on us as employees of the University,” Paul says. “The bottom line is that you shouldn’t use university resources – telephones, computers, photocopiers – to advocate on any political campaign, taking one side or another. That means not using a university copy machine for flyers for ‘No on Proposition Z,’ or using your UCSF email address to urge people to vote for a specific candidate.”
That doesn’t mean you have to check your conscience at the door the minute you put on your UCSF lab coat. “You are perfectly allowed to express your viewpoints as an individual,” continues Paul. “Just because you work for the University of California doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the political process. If you want to campaign for particular candidate for governor, or work on a campaign for No on Prop. Z, you can do that on your own time.” The key is you can’t use university resources (including time on the job) to advance a political cause.
May a University employee endorse a ballot measure in his or her private capacity and identify him or herself by University title? Yes. A University official may allow use of his/her name and title for identification purposes in the same manner as others who sign an endorsement. However, an expressed disclaimer of University endorsement is required where the context may reasonably cause confusion as to whether the endorsement is made in an official or unofficial capacity.
For instance, there are ballot measures this year about sugar and tobacco, and we have faculty who conduct research on the effects of those substances on people’s health. “Faculty are saying the science is clear that sugar and tobacco are bad for you,” Paul says. “Why aren’t they able to communicate that to the general public?” They can. They just have to issue the disclaimer that they are speaking for themselves, and not for the University and simply provide the results of their research in an objective, non-inflammatory manner. “Maintaining the position of the University as a politically neutral place where you are doing research on a nonpolitical, nonpartisan, scientific venue is what we want to do,” explains Paul.
Say you’re an expert in a field that’s involved in a political campaign. If the media calls, you can talk to them, but it’s best not to advocate a position. Paul advises, “The best position to take is, ‘I’m not a politician, I’m a medical researcher, and my research shows sugar is good or bad for you.’ Stick to your research. Talk about your findings. Save your political activism for the appropriate time and place.”
Similarly, you can testify before Congress or in Sacramento. These venues are open to the public and both sides of an issue are often well-represented. But remember that you must speak as an individual faculty member or researcher rather than as a representative of the University. If the Legislature or Congress contacts you, I recommend you check in with UCSF Community and Government Relations. They can provide valuable assistance and guidance before you testify.
An exception is if there’s a political issue that is not on the ballot, such as the Black Lives Matter campaign or an overseas war. You are free to speak out on those topics. The restrictions, Paul cautions, are focused on political candidates and ballot initiatives that are up for election before the general public.
The University, as well as individual employees, can be penalized for breaking the rules, so the UC Office of the President has issued some guidelines if you’d like to go more in-depth. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Paul or the UCSF Office of Legal Affairs.
If you missed the first presidential debate, the second takes place on Sunday, October 9. No matter what, PLEASE VOTE! The stakes have never been higher.
Help Wanted: How to populate your clinical trial
No doubt you’ve seen them in elevator lobbies, on cluttered bulletin boards, even in bathroom stalls – flyers seeking subjects for a clinical trial. Let’s face it, this is one of the many significant challenges for a scientific researcher – right up there with getting enough money for your research! Principal Investigators (PIs) and their teams invest significant resources in recruiting subjects, and they routinely report that the task is difficult and time-consuming. This has definitely been my own experience for most of the clinical trials with which I’ve been involved.
That’s a big deal, because if you don’t enroll enough participants, you can’t complete your research and its scientific aims, the study will not bring benefit to the patients you are trying to help, and you might have trouble getting grants in the future. Most importantly, says Jennifer Creasman of the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI), there’s an ethical consideration: You make a social contract with a study participant that you will work on the study’s scientific goals, and if you under-enroll and can’t pursue those goals, you have essentially breached your contract. Under-enrolled studies can also compromise research revenue with contracts that provide financial support based on number of participants enrolled.
I’m glad to write that relief is here – in the form of several different communication efforts that can help UCSF PIs find participants for their trials, and even spread the word so people who are interested in participating in research can find a PI with an available opportunity. Here’s a summary:
UCSF Clinical Trials website: Until recently, there really hasn’t been a good one-stop shop to oversee all the clinical research that’s going on at UCSF. When Jenny Grandis took her post as associate vice chancellor of Clinical and Translational Research at the start of 2015, she asked that we pull one together, and it’s ready for prime time. The new site is up and running at clinicaltrials.ucsf.edu. It’s in beta now to gather UCSF feedback, so you have to be on the UCSF network to access it. It should be publicly available before the end of this year.
Leslie Yuan, CTSI chief information officer and director of the Research Technology program, says her group received funding from the Committee on Research Technology to develop the project, which is quite impressive! It currently combines data from ClinicalTrials.gov and UCSF’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), and the plan is to pull in more data from other sources. The team focused on improving data quality, study discoverability, and user experience. Hundreds more studies are now captured compared to UCSF’s previous trial finder website, including those at Zuckerberg San Francisco General and Children’s Hospital Oakland. In addition, the new site is search engine optimized, which means that UCSF studies will now be more visible in search engines like Google. Visitors to the site can search or browse open studies via the user-friendly interface and ask to be contacted about studies that interest them.
It’s not perfect: if your project is labeled as “clinical research,” instead of “clinical trial,” it might not show up. Give it a spin, and leave your feedback right on the site.
Recruitment Events & Resources: CTSI hosts brown bag lunches, web seminars, and other events to describe different ways to recruit trial participants. Melissa Telli, senior director of communications and marketing at CTSI, informs me that the workshop coming up on October 12 will offer an overview of new recruitment techniques and tips on what does and does not work. I highly recommend that you check it out – sign up now. Melissa says that there is also a set of educational videos being developed that will provide more in-depth guidance on recruitment budgeting, branding and communications strategies, ethical considerations, and other pertinent topics.
Consultation Services: If you are wondering how to use social media to recruit potential subjects, whether you should hire a vendor to build a landing page for your study’s website, or how much to budget for participant recruitment, get answers and help from CTSI’s Consultation Services. When you ask for a consultation, the first hour is free, so you have nothing to lose.
EMR Cohort Identification and Direct Mail Service: The group can help recruit by acting as an “honest broker,” inviting UCSF patients who might be eligible to participate in research. Many investigators don’t have time for this canvassing. Patient Recruitment Services can send letters on your behalf to see who’s willing to participate.
ResearchMatch: UCSF is one of 128 institutions taking part in a project started at Vanderbilt University. The ResearchMatch website allows people interested in participating in research to sign up, and investigators can see who is potentially eligible for their studies.
UC TrialQuest: This is a new tool that researchers can use to locate clinical trials across all five of UC’s medical campuses. TrialQuest should be useful to researchers who want to begin recruiting at other UC sites or find collaborators to start up multi-center studies. (Note: only those with campus login credentials can use the site).
Jennifer Creasman hopes UCSF’s participant recruitment initiatives will have a measurable impact on studies struggling to reach their recruitment goals. “Successful recruitment starts with a good plan and an adequate budget,” she says. “We’re here to help studies develop both.”
Leslie Yuan informed me that these initiatives are part of an even grander vision: “We are hoping that what we produce at UCSF will be a model for other UC Health Centers, California, and other academic medical centers around the country,” she says. “We just found out we were awarded a 2-year NIH grant to help fund a UC-wide trial finder. So we are already making strides forward!”
Bridging Innovations: Spotlight on the Office of Technology Management
Financing and protecting your research – ideally, we shouldn’t lose sleep over it, but I’m sure some of us do. Patent, copyright, intellectual property – these are words that invoke bureaucracy (or bureaucrazy) and legalese, and selectively have an impact on some of us in our academic work at UCSF. For those of you working within these orbits (or contemplating doing so), we really want to be of help to you, and here is where the UCSF Office of Technology Management (OTM) can make a difference.
Many people don’t know what the OTM does, and that’s a bit sad, because this important team has a lot of expertise and resources that can help you bring a novel idea into the world. The OTM falls under the purview of Innovation, Technology and Alliances (ITA). Think of ITA as an umbrella covering:
- OTM – intellectual property management and licensing
- Office of Strategic Alliances (OSA) – research partnering
- Entrepreneurship Center – budding startups
- Office of Industry Contracts – the name says it all
And, the good news is that OTM is making huge strides toward putting out the word not only about its own services but also the exciting work being done at UCSF. The OTM recently launched an extremely helpful publication, Bridging Innovations, to showcase its work. The newsletter comes out quarterly (you can subscribe), and the ITA website makes it easy to access the important forms you might need as you seek funding partners or file a patent application.
Karin Immergluck, executive director of OTM, says, “So many faculty are not even aware of what their colleagues are doing.” The Bridging Innovations newsletter is where you can see, for example, what patents Linda Giudice was recently awarded, or learn about the new company founded by Wendell Lim. Companies started out of OTM have raised tens of millions of dollars, sometimes more than $100 million. Bridging Innovations also is catching the eye of industry. A pharmaceutical company might see a UCSF deal with GlaxoSmithKline and say, “‘Wow! UCSF is playing in the big league,’” explains Technology Marketing Manager Ying-Li Chen. “Then they also want a chance to do a deal with us. It’s a really good way to get attention for the great work we do here.”
Karin informed me that the OTM’s increased marketing efforts have recently led to several instances of multiple parties bidding for the same UCSF technologies. According to Karin, “This helps us better establish true market value, and also gives us leverage to make sure we find an appropriate commercialization partner who will most diligently bring the product to market to the greatest possible benefit of our patients and society.”
The OTM team also features some of UCSF’s work in the digital realm. “People think of UCSF as a purely biological and life sciences institution, and they’re often amazed to hear about our collaboration with Cisco on a health interoperability system for hospitals,” Karin says. “We are highlighting our Center for Digital Health Innovation.”
So, whatever your idea is, OTM can point you in the right direction. It can help connect you with a potential funder, reality-check whether your idea can be commercialized, point you toward possible office space for your startup, or navigate the complexities of filing your patent. “Our office has already facilitated more than 100 startups,” Ying-Li says. “And, we have more than 100 products on the market—from therapeutics to devices to the NeuroRacer video game devised by Adam Gazzaley.”
Go ahead, check OTM out. They are a great resource!
Dan’s Tip of the Month
Cyclists call it “the door prize.” More a booby prize that can lead to serious injury, it easily is avoided by using a simple technique – the Dutch Reach. Drivers and passengers alike can use it to prevent cyclists from being “doored.” Basically, when exiting a car, open the door with your opposite hand! Biking is a way of life for the Dutch – even their royal family cycles – and the Dutch Reach is taught in driver’s ed classes. After all, who would want to “door” the king?!