Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Translating Science into Solutions for Better Health

SC CTSI Launches Voucher Program to Jumpstart Innovative Research


During the course of research, investigators often spark on promising questions beyond the focus of the current study. A new SC CTSI program provides access to SC CTSI resources to support collection of the additional data needed to transform unexpected insights into useful science.

SC CTSI's Voucher Program is designed to help investigators start pilot studies in clinical or community research that will generate key preliminary data for more impactful funding. Vouchers provide up to $3,000 to purchase SC CTSI services or to access core resources that can give investigators with limited research funds the support they need to nurture a small idea with big potential.

April Armstrong, MD, MPH

The vouchers may be used in two ways, explained April Armstrong, MD, MPH, associate dean for clinical research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Director of Clinical Research Support at SC CTSI. They can help add new data collection to an existing clinical or community research project that would otherwise lay outside the scope of the parent project. Or they can enable de novo data collection outside the context of any existing project.

Research support when inspiration strikes

"Investigators working on a project often realize there are additional research directions that may not fit into the current project but could nevertheless add scientific value to the research community or to patients," said Armstrong. "The Voucher Program is largely meant to fund those innovative ideas and procedures that grow out of a larger parent project."

The SC CTSI hopes the Voucher Program will encourage and foster innovation in clinical and community research. "We want clinical researchers at USC and CHLA and around the community to be as creative as they can, and go down paths they might otherwise not have had the support to follow," said Armstrong.

John C. Wood, MD, PhD

The Voucher funds can be used in a variety of ways, including to pay for procedures like blood testing or imaging, but also to access human resources such as SC CTSI expert consultants or study coordinators, explained voucher program co-administrator John C. Wood, MD, PhD, a principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and professor of Pediatrics and Radiology at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and Medical Director of the SC CTSI's Clinical Trials Unit.

Catalyst for discovery

Though the voucher dollar amounts are not huge, a little can go a long way, if it gets in the right hands at the right time, explained Wood. "We want to see novel ideas in which three thousand dollars really makes a difference," he said. "It's not enough money to run a whole study, but it can be a catalyst to help good ideas ignite."

The program is designed to benefit early-career researchers in particular, who have fewer funding sources than established, more senior investigators, said Wood.

CHLA, for example, is a particularly fertile environment for new research, pointed out Wood. "We have a tremendous backdrop of approachable clinical research questions at CHLA because our patients are interesting, and have many unsolved problems," he said. "And we have a large number of capable, but junior investigators who need this type of funding to get studies jumpstarted, so this fund is perfect for CHLA." 

The program is open to faculty and fellows throughout USC/CHLA. Click here for application information about the Voucher Program.