Infectious Disease :: LSUHSC grants fund infectious diseases research and clinical trials

Chancellor Larry Hollier, MD, announced that the Louisiana Board of Regents voted to award LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans a $3.3 million grant and an equal share of a $5.9 million grant from their Research Commercialization and Education Enhancement Program.

“We are grateful to the Louisiana Board of Regents, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Joseph Savoie, and the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which was instrumental in obtaining these funds, for investing in our educational and research enterprises,? said Dr. Hollier. ?These programs will help us stabilize the supply of health care professionals in New Orleans and promote economic recovery by enhancing our efforts to recruit and, as importantly, retain current faculty.?

Dr. Paul Fidel, Associate Dean for Research at the LSUHSC School of Dentistry, is the principal investigator and will lead the $3.3 million South Louisiana Institute for Infectious Disease Research. The institute will build upon research strengths in fungal diseases, HIV/SIV, sexually transmitted diseases, vaccines/vaccine development, respiratory diseases, oral diseases and biodefense-emerging infections at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans and Tulane Health Sciences Center.

The institute will create an educational component that will provide a technical training program for Louisiana Associate or Baccalaureate students designed to prepare them for careers in academic research laboratories and the biotechnology industry. The institute will also initiate programs for intellectual stimulation and mentoring, providing research enhancement funds, as well as salary support for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.

The institute?s commercialization component will provide pathways to efficient and effective commercialization of promising translational discoveries with the help of the schools? technology transfer offices, The New Orleans BioInnovation Center (NOBIC), and area business schools.

?The grant enables us to take areas of strength in infectious disease research and create a ?Tower of Strength’ and the educational component will provide a pipeline of high quality workforce for research,? notes Dr. Fidel. ?The commercialization component will provide a pathway to more effectively take discoveries into the marketplace. Together, we envision the ultimate reward to be the advancement of the discovery process that will provide better treatment and cures for those suffering with infectious diseases.?

Dr. Steve Nelson, Professor and Chief of the Section of Pulmonary Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, is the co-principal investigator of the highest ranked and highest funded grant. The $5.9 million Clinical and Translational Research Education and Commercialization Program at LSU Health Sciences Center and Tulane will support clinical and translational research. The clinical core will comprise the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) housed at University Hospital which Dr. Nelson leads as Program Director. This unit is one of a national network of approximately 78 centers usually located in units within hospitals of academic medical centers. Their primary mission is to provide a research infrastructure for clinical investigators who receive their primary support from NIH components as well as other Federal agencies.

Current GCRC research projects include new cancer therapies, new drugs for malaria, AIDS, and asthma, among others. These projects represent about $25 million of NIH funded research.

The review panel noted that the educational component is innovative and likely to be successful in increasing the numbers of trained clinical scientists. They went on to say that the use of a navigator for clinical researchers to guide the development of a clinical research protocol from conception to patient accrual is an excellent idea and should provide the type of mentoringthat is crucial for effective faculty development. The proposed commercialization core issolid and demonstrates a good institutional track record in this area.

The reviewers concluded ?that this is an outstanding proposal that is absolutely essential to the future of clinical and translational research in south Louisiana. It will support the infrastructure that is the backbone of clinical research and the training of future clinical and translational scientists. Given the substantial impact of Hurricane Katrina on this program and the excellent track records of the faculty involved, support is essential and highly likely to bear fruit both in terms of an improved workforce and enhanced commercialization.?

?The funding provided by the Board of Regents/Louisiana Recovery Authority for this proposal is essential to the recovery and growth of both medical schools and to the future of clinical research and training in Louisiana,? said Dr. Nelson. ?It will provide our citizens with access to the latest medical therapies, train the next generation of physician scientists and healthcare professionals, and provide a pathway for the commercialization of our new discoveries into new industries and jobs in Louisiana.?

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