WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center’s successful bid to co-lead an $85 million federally funded Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) will result in new jobs at the Medical Center and increased activity in Piedmont Triad Research Park.
AFIRM will be dedicated to repairing battlefield injuries through the use of regenerative medicine, science that takes advantage of the body’s natural healing powers to restore or replace damaged tissue and organs. The project will be co-led by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and Rutgers University and will include a host of academic and industrial partners.
"For the first time in the history of regenerative medicine, we have the opportunity to work at a national level to bring transformational technologies to wounded soldiers, and to do so in partnership with the armed services," said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM. "This field of science has the potential to significantly impact our ability to successfully treat major trauma."
Wake Forest and Rutgers will each lead a consortium of academic and industry partners. The WFIRM-led group has committed to develop clinical therapies over the next five years that will focus on the following five areas:
- Burn repair
-Wound healing without scarring
-Limb reconstruction, regeneration or transplantation
-Compartment syndrome, a condition related to inflammation after surgery or injury that can lead to increased pressure, impaired blood flow, nerve damage and muscle death.
Working with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and other institutions, WFIRM is already pursuing projects such as developing a product to quickly stop bleeding and develop an off-the-shelf skin for burn patients. The group has successfully grown muscle, bone and blood vessels in the laboratory with the goal of one day combining them to create more complex organs.
As a result of the project, Wake Forest University Health Sciences (WFUHS) plans to construct a manufacturing facility in the Richard H. Dean Biomedical Research Building that meets standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This will allow products developed at the institute to be manufactured there.
Atala said additional scientists will be hired as a result of the grant, but an estimate of the number needed is not yet available.
Legislators at both the state and federal levels played a significant role in the Medical Center’s being selected for the project, according to Douglas Edgeton, M.B.A., M.P.H., executive vice present and COO of WFUHS and president of Piedmont Triad Research Park.
He said a key reason for the selection was the members’ existing and planned investments in regenerative medicine research. Wake Forest’s consortium partners had a total of $150 million in existing or pledged funds for regenerative medicine projects. These projects, which include $40 million in existing regenerative medicine research at WFIRM, will complement the AFIRM research. Including the $42.5 million in federal money that Wake Forest and its partners will receive, the group will have almost $200 million available for research directed at battlefield injuries.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, and N.C. Senator Linda Garrou have played a significant role in supporting regenerative medicine research at Wake Forest, according to Edgeton.
Last year Garrou, co-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, helped win $12 million in the state budget over the next two years for the Center for Regenerative Medicine.
“Sen. Garrou’s leadership allowed the General Assembly to make a key investment that played a critical role in attracting the federal funds to North Carolina and Wake Forest,” said Edgeton. “I’m not sure we would be where we are today without her help.”
In the current budget year, Burr and Foxx were successful in obtaining a total of $5.4 million from the Department of Defense and Department of Energy for the institute’s research.
“The fact that Wake Forest was selected to co-direct this amazing project is largely due to the support of these representatives,” said Edgeton.
“North Carolina is very fortunate to be the home of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine,” said Burr. “The research being conducted there is ground-breaking and I am very pleased the federal government has chosen this institute as the recipient of this research grant. As the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I am very optimistic that WFIRM’s work will chart new territory to treat and heal our nation’s heroes.”
Foxx said the institute’s work benefits not only the region, but also has the potential to impact people around the world.
“The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is conducting life-changing research in a cutting-edge field of medical science,” said Foxx. “The experts at the institute are engaged in pioneering tissue research that I am confident will change the face of modern medicine. It is important that the federal government recognize and support this critical investment in the future of medicine.”
Collaborators for the Wake Forest team include Allegheny Singer Research Institute, the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Intercytex, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, North Carolina State University, Oregon Medical Laser Center at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Organogenesis, Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, Rice University, the Stanford University School of Medicine, Tufts University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of North Carolina, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the University of Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt University.
Government sponsors of AFIRM are the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Air Force Office of the Surgeon General, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health.
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About the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (www.wfirm.org) is an established center dedicated to the discovery, development and clinical translation of regenerative medicine technologies by leading faculty. The institute has used biomaterials alone, cell therapies, and engineered tissues and organs for the treatment of patients with injury or disease. The Institute is based at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (www.wfubmc.edu), an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.
About Piedmont Triad Research Park (www.ptrp.com)
The Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP) is a place where innovation lives. Located in Winston-Salem’s downtown business district and centered in the North Carolina Technology Corridor, PTRP expansion plans, led by Wake Forest University Health Sciences, are underway to revitalize its approximately 200 acres* over the next 20-30 years. Currently, the PTRP community encompasses six buildings providing over 554,000 sq. ft. of wet lab, office, meeting and residential space. PTRP is home to 42 technology tenants (including the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine) who collectively employ over 850 university and corporate personnel from around the globe.
Editor: acreage updated 6/2012
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