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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

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Thursday, October 5, 2006


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New Clinical Research Facility Focusing on Environmental Health to Open at NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, NC

The first outpatient clinical research facility is being established at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, to help bridge the gap between research and patient care and to train future generations of physician-scientists. Initially, clinical studies in the new facility will have a strong focus on pulmonary exposures and diseases such as asthma. The NIEHS expects to begin accepting patients by summer 2007.

“Having a place on the NIEHS campus for physician-scientists to see patients will allow us to focus our research on scientific questions that are clinically relevant,” says NIEHS Director, David A. Schwartz, M.D. “Not only is it a great opportunity for our in-house scientists, but it also allows us to give something back to the community.”

The 11,500-square-foot facility will be located within a few hundred feet of the main NIEHS building at Alexander Drive in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. It will operate as an outpatient facility and provide routine evaluations, biological sample collection and processing, pulmonary function testing and bronchial sampling capabilities. Construction of the facility is estimated to cost $4.75 million.

The clinical research facility is part of the Institute’s new effort to have a stronger impact on human health and disease as articulated in its 2006 Strategic Plan, "New Frontiers in Environmental Sciences and Human Health". It demonstrates the NIEHS commitment to translational research by moving research results from the NIEHS portfolio into clinical practice.

“The clinical unit will provide new opportunities for researchers from different disciplines to work together to translate basic laboratory findings to patients,” said Perry J. Blackshear, M.D., D.Phil., Director of Clinical Research at NIEHS “It will also be an excellent resource for training medical students, and postdoctoral and clinical fellows, in clinical aspects of the environmental health sciences.”

In addition to the several clinical investigators already on staff at NIEHS, two more have recently been recruited to staff the new facility. Dr. William Martin, a pulmonary physician, joined the NIEHS leadership team in March 2006 as Associate Director, NIEHS, and Director of Translational Research; and Dr. Michael Fessler, also a physician-researcher who specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine, recently joined NIEHS to serve as both a Clinical Investigator and head of the New Host Defense Group in the Laboratory of Respiratory Biology. As an example of how the basic and clinical arenas will merge to improve patient outcomes, Dr. Fessler says he will use a disease-oriented translational approach to develop clinical applications out of his group’s work on the pulmonary and immune systems. A staff clinician is also being recruited to oversee day-to-day operations and management of the facility.

“We are very excited about adding this clinical unit to our portfolio. We will be better poised to translate laboratory discoveries into innovative treatments, therapies and interventions to improve the nation's health,” said Dr. Schwartz.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health. For more information on environmental health topics, please visit our website at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


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