Major Initiatives Address National Health Concerns

From protecting people against new flu viruses and possible acts of bioterrorism, to speeding the development of new pain treatments and stem cell therapies, our scientists and clinicians are leading large-scale programs in areas that have the potential to influence millions of Americans.

Such initiatives require widespread collaboration and cross pollination, not only within the Medical Center but throughout the community as well. With collegiality as our main asset, we’re exceptionally equipped to manage complex programs and clinical studies that many other universities would have a hard time seeing through. Major, multidisciplinary initiatives from 2010 include:

Fighting the Flu

The Infectious Diseases Division launched a cluster of flu vaccine trials with an NIH grant amounting to more than $15.5 million over five years. Many of the trials will contain live, weakened viruses and require participants to remain in isolation for several days at a time. The first of the trials is testing H7 influenza viruses, which typically infect birds, but recently have become more problematic for humans.

Battling Bioterrorism

Federal bioterrorism funding saw a major boost this year, with two multi-million-dollar awards from NIH. Rochester received a $15 million, five-year award to test the ability of known drugs and experimental compounds to ward off systemic radiation injury that individuals could suffer following an act of terrorism, such as a possible dirty bomb or other radiological or nuclear attack.

In addition to radiation injury, Rochester scientists are using computer modeling to study ways to boost human immune responses against a variety of potentially lethal flu viruses, including those that occur naturally and those that are manipulated to create manmade bioweapons. With an $11.9 million, five-year award, researchers hope to use these models to simulate different flu scenarios and test medical interventions that might be developed to limit the extent of a dangerous flu infection in people.

Pursuing the Pain Problem

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration selected the Medical Center to lead a new initiative to accelerate the identification of improved pain treatments, which are greatly needed for the more than 76 million Americans with acute and chronic pain. Rochester is bringing together public and private organizations to collaborate on multiple projects to help bring more treatment options to patients.

Advancing Stem Cells

Stem cells continue to be an intense area of investigation and the Medical Center received significant funding from the Empire State Stem Cell Board for research in neurological disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and bone repair. Eight Rochester researchers are using these funds to advance our understanding of how stem cells function and may be used to combat a wide range of conditions.