Environmental Factor, August 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIEHS Holds Ribbon Cutting for Clinical Research Unit
By Eddy Ball
Friends, supporters and dignitaries flocked to the NIEHS campus on July 27 in precedent-setting numbers to celebrate the grand opening of the Institute's much anticipated Clinical Research Unit (CRU).
The day's events began with addresses to a capacity audience in Rodbell Auditorium by distinguished visitors, before moving to the CRU where there was a formal ribbon cutting ceremony and refreshments. In the afternoon, visitors joined NIEHS scientists and employees for presentations on aspects of clinical research (see text box). (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2009/august/science-public.cfm#bluebox)
The morning talks, which were moderated by Emcee Joe Graedon, radio celebrity and co-host of the public radio program "The People's Pharmacy (http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/) ," opened with welcome remarks by NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.
"Opening this unit has been a long time coming," Birnbaum said, "but I believe that it is something that will not only benefit our researchers, but our community and nation as well." She called the CRU a "clinical training ground" that will foster innovative collaborations.
Birnbaum was followed with "Greetings" from NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research Michael Gottesman, M.D., and "A Local Partner's Perspective" by Robert Califf, M.D., vice chancellor for clinical research at Duke University.
Thanks to Graedon's vigilance, each of the politicians on hand kept remarks within the allotted three minutes. U.S. Senator Kay Hagan was lead speaker from the federal delegation, which included 4th District Congressman David Price, Ph.D., 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge and 13th District Congressman Brad Miller. Each expressed support for the environmental research and public health mission of NIEHS and NTP as well as for funding for health research at NIH.
As cameras flashed, politics became progressively more local in scope, starting with N.C. Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton and N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler. The state officials praised NIEHS and NTP for their contribution the state's growth in the area of biotechnology and for anticipating health issues in order to head off emerging problems.
Closing out the "Officials" portion of the program were Durham County Commissioner Michael Page and Durham Mayor William Bell, who thanked NIEHS for being the source for the many jobs his constituents fill at the Institute and for ensuring diversity among study participants.
NIEHS Acting Clinical Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., concluded the formal portion of the celebration with the presentation of awards to 12 employees for their contributions to realizing the dream of clinical research at NIEHS, as well as thanks to many others who supported the CRU since its initial conception in 2005.
Under an unforgiving sun, visitors, many dressed to the nines, trekked to the other end of the main building and across the parking lot to the CRU. Following the ribbon cutting at the front door, they enjoyed a light buffet and the company of friends old and new - to say nothing of blessed sanctuary from the noontime heat and humidity.
After a lunch break, an equally enthusiastic audience returned to Robell Auditorium for talks about clinical research and public health translation hosted by NIEHS CRU Medical Director Stavros Garantziotis, M.D. Three distinguished physician scientists addressed their own work along the broad spectrum of what Birnbaum has called "bench-to-bedside and bench-to-public health" translational research - Robert Califf, M.D., vice chancellor for clinical research at Duke University; National Children's Study Principal Investigator Philip Landrigan, M.D., of Mt. Sinai Medical Center; and Franck Mauvais-Jarvis, M.D., Ph.D., a Northwestern University Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine associate professor of medicine.
Clinical Research Symposium
- Back at the podium for a talk on "A Strategic Approach to Addressing the Needs for Mechanistic Clinical Research," Robert Califf explored the leadership challenges of realizing the integrated, multi-disciplinary model that is at the heart of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards program. Looking back on his own experience with medicines that delivered less than they promised - or even produced adverse effects in patients - Califf argued that a network of multi-disciplinary programs could help researchers understand more completely the true clinical outcomes that may be obscured by focusing too intently on surrogate endpoints in drug development. He also told the audience about Duke's global initiatives in Singapore and New Delhi.
- Long-time NIEHS grantee Philip Landrigan spoke on the "The National Children's (NCS) Study - The Need and the Promise." Landrigan began his talk with a look back at the success of translating research on lead into a public health policy that has reduced blood levels in the population by some 90 percent in the past 30 years. He expressed his confidence that the growing network of NCS research sites, such as the one he leads in Queens, will use data from the long-term prospective study of 100,000 children to have similar effects in decades to come - translating the results of molecular epidemiology from the bench, the clinic and the desk to public health policy.
- The final speaker of the afternoon was Franck Mauvais-Jarvis, who recounted his clinical research in a talk on "Estrogen Receptors and Pancreatic Islet Survival in Diabetes: An Example of Bidirectional Translational Research." Helped by his collaborations with NIEHS Principal Investigator Ken Korach, Ph.D., Mauvais-Jarvis explored an hypothesis born of clinical observation and tested in engineered mice that he anticipates within five years will help patients in clinical trials - just where his bidirectional bedside-to-bench/bench-to-beside odyssey originally began.