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Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute Opens in Henrietta

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dozens of scientists are moving into new Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute on Bailey Road in Henrietta.

The University of Rochester Medical Center today announced the opening of the Aab Cardiovascular Research  Institute (CVRI) in the Town of Henrietta. More than 100 scientists, students and technicians, currently housed across the Medical Center's campus, will be brought together under one roof. A ribbon-cutting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Bailey Road building.

The 15 cardiovascular research laboratories moving to the new institute currently conduct more than 50 research projects with the goal of furthering the understanding of heart disease. Projects range from the design of novel diagnostic approaches to research into how atherosclerotic plaque builds up in arteries to efforts to identify genes that control heart failure. Along with cardiovascular scientists, the newly renovated facility will house 15 researchers from Functional Genomics, a core facility that services researchers throughout the University and Medical Center, providing analysis of genetic material using state-of-the-art techniques.

The Aab CVRI is also reflective of the multidisciplinary research initiatives driving the strategic direction of the Medical Center as a whole. For example, cardiovascular diseases are a focus of the Medical Center's soon-to-be-announced, five-year strategic plan, the main goal of which is to deliver new medical treatments for major disease areas. The CVRI will be strengthened by leveraging new and joint recruitments, shared cores and equipment, and technologies that emerge from the strategic plan. In addition, CVRI research teams will be integral to the Medical Center's newly established Clinical and Translational Science Institute, one of just 12 in the nation chosen to receive major funding from the National Institutes of Health. Under the CTSI umbrella, cardiovascular researchers will work collaboratively with scientists in related fields and with practicing physicians to accelerate the translation of basic science discoveries into new treatments. The launch of the Aab CVRI will also bring new synergies between cardiovascular research and programs in clinical cardiology, cardiac surgery, and vascular surgery to provide novel diagnostic and treatment approaches. Taken together, these initiatives position the city of Rochester as a leading center nationally for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, a place where basic research contributes to new treatments and clinical work suggests avenues for new research, according to CVRI leadership.

Nearly three years ago, on Aug. 25, 2004, the University of Rochester purchased the facility located at 211 Bailey Road, which was formerly occupied by Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines and Pediatrics. Since then, the University has invested $14 million to re-outfit the facility, which occupies 100,000 square feet.

"A main focus within the CVRI is the near-future launch of expanded research programs, and new research programs require a specially designed space," said Mark Taubman, M.D., director of the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute. "Whether we are talking about areas where we currently excel, like vascular biology and thrombosis, or areas where we want to grow, like stem cell and obesity research, the newly unified CVRI will position us to be among the leading cardiovascular research programs in the nation," said Taubman, also the new chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The building and institute are named in honor of Richard T. Aab, a long-time supporter of the University of Rochester Medical Center, in appreciation of his $5 million gift. Mr. Aab is founder, chairman, and CEO of E-chx Inc. He co-founded the ACC Corporation in 1982 and US LEC Corporation in 1996 where he served as chairman of the board until the company merged with PAETEC Corporation in February 2007. Aab serves as a board member of various private corporate institutions as well as Medifast, Inc., the University of Rochester, the University of Rochester Medical Center and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

"I am honored to be a part of what I truly believe to be a new chapter in the understanding and treatment of heart disease," Aab said. "Few have not been touched by cardiovascular disease in some way. And while scientists' understanding of the disease has evolved, thanks in part to the contributions of the outstanding researchers that make up this institute, we still have a long way to go to ease the suffering. The good news is that new technologies and research developments under development right here in Rochester are poised to further improve patients' lives."

The facility was built in 1993 by American Cyanamid to continue the commercial development of the vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type b, or "Hib," that had been pioneered by three Medical Center scientists: Richard Insel, M.D., David Smith, M.D., and Porter Anderson, Ph.D. The vaccine has been a remarkable success, bringing about a dramatic reduction in cases of meningitis and deafness caused by the bacteria. Vaccine research wasn't especially popular in the industry at the time, so the research team went into business together and created a company, Praxis – a company also once housed in the Henrietta facility – to make the vaccine.

As chair of Medicine and director of the CVRI, Taubman succeeds Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., who recently became CEO of the Medical Center and Strong Health. Since Berk joined the Medical Center in 1999, 15 investigators have been recruited to the CVRI, resulting in a three-fold increase in total cardiovascular research funding to $15 million. Under Taubman's leadership of the Cardiology Division, dramatic increases in corporate funding have also occurred, to more than $7 million.

"In less than 10 years, researchers within the CVRI have won 60 research grants and filed 36 patent applications, both measures of the tremendous value that CVRI offers to the field of cardiovascular medicine, and of the even greater potential it will offer in the near future," Berk said. "Our hope is that this expanding research enterprise will also make significant contributions to improved patient care and economic investment in this community."

"This building was constructed to house one of the University of Rochester's most successful examples of harnessing research to improve human health, technology that led to the development of the Hib vaccine which virtually wiped out meningitis in preschoolers," added Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester.  "It's fitting that the facility will once again, thanks to the generosity of Richard Aab and leadership of Drs. Berk and Taubman, serve as the home of a premier research effort aimed at translating basic science into medical breakthroughs."

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