Students Get Insider Access With CTSI Catalyst Awards


Are you a student interested in an insider’s perspective on what it means to translate therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, or digital health into products and services that improve health? If the answer is yes, then the Catalyst Awards Internship Program might just be for you.

“This experience introduces students to the process of translating basic research into valuable and commercially viable products, and helps them learn how to evaluate their own research for its potential to become a product,” said Irina Gitlin, PhD, senior program manager with UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which manages the program.

“Through their involvement with the review process, which involves a team Catalyst Awards advisors, students get to hear criteria that’s important in the evaluation process, including identifying an unmet need, assessing competing technologies, and exploring the challenges of the regulatory or clinical path,” she added.

Two of the six students involved in the Fall 2013 Cycle share their thoughts on the experience:

“Many of the challenges and pitfalls the advisors brought up about the proposed projects (i.e. regulatory strategy, patient tolerability for side effects, number of patients for a clinical study) were not things that I was used to thinking about as a graduate student. Acting as a fly on the wall during the initial review panel discussions allowed me to absorb so much about what experts in different fields think is important for product development.”

“It's one thing to be aware of the criteria (eg. market landscape, IP position, etc...), but it was invaluable to define these criteria in discussions, apply them to real proposals firsthand, and watch them evolve over the course of the program.”

Interns are not only involved in detailed discussions about specific challenges related to research proposals, but a new aspect of the program brings students and expert advisors together for organized lunch seminars, where discussion topics range from making career choices to differences in how academia and industry approach research programs.

Importantly, the internship offers exposure to many aspects of business and commercialization that students aren’t typically exposed to in an academic environment, Gitlin said.

To learn more about the Catalyst Awards internship program, eligibility, and important dates, visit

UCSF's CTSI is a member of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant Number UL1 TR000004) at the National Institutes of Health. Under the banner of "Accelerating Research to Improve Health," CTSI also provides a wide range of resources and services for researchers, and promotes online collaboration and networking tools such as UCSF Profiles.