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Nutrition Center Receives $693,750 Grant

The Center for Research on Human Nutrition and Chronic Disease Prevention at Wake Forest University School of Medicine has received a $693,750 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for major equipment on the fourth floor of the center''s building.

The grant brings total federal funding to $20,187,476 toward the cost of the building, which is estimated at more than $58 million. The first funds were appropriated in 1990.

The fourth floor will be used for research laboratories in cancer biology and radiation oncology, as well as for a special facility certified according to standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used for cell and gene therapy. This pilot facility will include two laboratories and support space, and will have its own air supply and exhaust ventilation system, as well as controlled access.

The remainder of the 12,200 square feet of usable space on the floor will be divided among 15 other laboratories and support spaces.

Among the special equipment slated for the floor are:

  • An ultra centrifuge that turns at 100,000 revolutions a minute, used to separate and purify different molecules such as proteins, RNA or DNA.
  • A luminometer that measures the emission of light. "It measures the emission of the same kind of light that fireflies produce," said Scott D. Cramer, Ph.D., assistant professor of cancer biology and urology. "The glow is produced by a chemical reaction that we have been able to harness in the laboratory to accurately measure the amount of a specific substance in cells."

Cramer, who will run the pilot facility, said that it will be used to produce biotherapeutic agents under controlled conditions meeting FDA standards. The FDA requires these conditions because the agents will be placed back into the patients.

The first project, known as dendritic cell therapy and aimed at prostate cancer, will collect circulating cells in the blood and extract a certain group of white blood cells (dendritic cells) and modify them to help activate the immune system. At the same time, Cramer''s team will purify a protein from that patient''s seminal fluid, which comes from the prostate. "The cells are grown in the presence of this purified antigen and that activates the cells against the person''s prostate cells."

The total cost to complete the fourth floor is projected at $4.8 million, with $1.5 million of that going for equipment. Construction costs are being partially paid for by a 1999 grant for $985,300 from a construction program of the U.S. Health Services Research Administration that pays for health care facilities and research centers.

Plans for the fourth and fifth floors have been completed and are now in review at the agencies that are helping to fund those floors, said Ed Carter, vice president and associate dean for facilities planning. He said he hoped to start construction in August or September.

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