NIEHS to Open Clinical Research Unit in Spring of 2008
NIEHS will take its translational research to the next level with a new 14,000 square foot Clinical Research Unit (CRU) on its Research Triangle Park, N.C. campus.
Along with advanced pulmonary health studies, the physician scientists who will be utilizing the new facility have proposed a diverse research portfolio that includes medical genetics, cardiovascular diseases and reproductive health. The CRU will accommodate outpatient research only and will offer routine patient evaluation, fluoroscopy, X-ray and ultrasound imaging, and sample collection and processing. It will also feature specialized diagnostic and analytical capabilities, such as inhalation exposure measurement, and bronchoscopy with bronchial sampling.
In 2006, Pulmonary Physician William Martin, M.D., Director of Translational Research, became the first clinician recruited by NIEHS specifically for development of on-site clinical research. He joined Director of Clinical Research Perry Blackshear, M.D., D.Phil., who will oversee operation of the facility. Together, Martin and Blackshear have been recruiting new clinicians and calling upon the talents of physicians and scientists already employed by the Institute to staff the CRU.
Previously, NIEHS research involving human tissue sampling or functional assessment could not be performed on the main campus. The facility is situated adjacent to the main laboratory and will permit physician-scientists to conduct studies that involve on-site sample collection, pulmonary function assessment and laboratory analysis. The unit will also allow for advanced training opportunities for students and postdoctoral fellows whose research interests require access to clinical samples and patient studies.
In addition to helping NIEHS researchers overcome the difficulties of off-site clinical research in Bethesda and at collaborators' institutions, the CRU also represents a shift in NIEHS research focus. According to Martin, the CRU will encourage NIEHS scientists and grantees to develop protocols that promote interdisciplinary research at various levels.
Martin sees the CRU as a tangible and evocative "metaphor for the changes that are happening within the Institute in terms of the Strategic Plan." He predicts that "we'll see the portfolio evolve even more dramatically than it has already. Five years from now, our research may be going in directions we never envisioned initially."
As the outpatient unit progresses, the NIEHS National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council will advise and monitor clinical research efforts and help address questions about the future direction of an inpatient facility, which is planned for some time around 2012 if construction funding becomes available.