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Wake Forest University School of Medicine Launches Major Research Initiative

Wake Forest University School of Medicine will hire more than 60 new faculty members in five research areas and strengthen its support of other research efforts as part of a $67 million initiative to build on its longstanding research tradition and create a research engine for economic growth.

Richard H. Dean, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs, said the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees was prepared to invest new money "to build distinctive research programs in departmental niches and interdepartmental centers of excellence."

The additional faculty members will conduct research in genomics, cancer, pulmonary diseases, diabetes and "complementary" (alternative) medicine. The plan also calls for completing most of the remaining laboratory floors of the Center for Research on Human Nutrition and Chronic Disease Prevention.

A major portion of Piedmont Plaza II, a large office building at the Five Points intersection of Stratford and Country Club roads and Miller and First streets would be renovated for the Department of Public Health Sciences and the Women''s Health Center.

The initiative also envisions major improvements in research support by:

  • Strengthening the Office of Research to actively counsel investigators during the grant submission process and cultivate relationships with research sponsors.

  • Investing in the new Office of Technology Asset Management to improve the transfer of new research discoveries to the market.

  • Raising seed dollars to pay for the next wave of research growth.

The initiative capitalizes on the findings of the Medical Center''s strategic planning process, which helped to identify areas with significant potential for enhancement.

It also builds on the school''s longstanding culture of interdepartmental, multidisciplinary research, a tradition that began more than 40 years ago with the arteriosclerosis research program and soon included multidisciplinary efforts in cancer and stroke.

In the past decade, research grants climbed from $32.8 million to $77.8 million, and the number of grants nearly doubled from 435 to 844. In the past five years, more than 30 licenses and options have been issued for discoveries by medical school researchers. The new initiative will build on that success, capitalize on emerging research, and identify more opportunities for commercial development.

About $25.3 million in capital expenditures are envisioned as part of the research initiative, mostly for completion of some research floors of the nutrition center at a cost of $18.8 million. The renovation of Piedmont Plaza for Public Health Sciences is expected to cost $2.2 million, and renovations to the second floor of the Gray building for new pathology research laboratories are expected to cost $4.3 million.

The new research initiative builds upon established programs. The Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University is one of just 35 nationally recognized by the National Cancer Institute. The Medical Center is one of 18 National Centers of Excellence in Women''s Health designated by the U.S. Public Health Service, a designation that includes research on diseases that affect women. The research effort of the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging focuses around the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, one of the first three named by the National Institute on Aging

Dean said that as the research grows in these clinical areas, he envisions enhanced patient care. Furthermore, he said he hopes that this growth will become self-perpetuating and attract further excellence in even other fields.

The medical school, along with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association, was a major supporter of the recently concluded national Clinical Research Summit, which addressed the issue of declining clinical research in academic medical centers.

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