Medical Center Joins $80 Million Clinical Trial Network

August 11, 2014

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has received a $7 million, seven-year grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of Health (NHLBI) to conduct clinical trials for the Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL). 

Wake Forest Baptist has been designated as one of 12 clinical research centers participating in the $80 million PETAL network that will each recruit 220 patients. The principal investigator for Wake Forest Baptist is Peter E. Morris, M.D., professor of pulmonary, critical care, allergy and immunologic medicine. Co-investigators are Chadwick Miller, M.D., executive vice chair and associate professor of emergency medicine, and Jason Hoth, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of general surgery.

“We have already received an award notice of $2 million from the PETAL grant to organize our center and plan our national clinical trials,” Morris said. “Our Medical Center has been involved in the previous two cycles of this national critical care network.  What makes this competitive cycle different from past cycles is that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has placed additional emphasis on emergency medicine faculty and emergency departments in the study development and patient enrollment. Emergency medicine experts have unique capabilities and skills to design and initiate studies in the acutely ill as early as possible.”

Nationally, there is a challenge within emergency medicine and critical care investigations in locating families sufficiently early in the patient’s illness, so the potential for study participation may be discussed, Morris said. “The earlier patients and families may become enrolled, the earlier in the course of illness a treatment may be tested. Therefore, these studies, developed between emergency medicine and critical care experts, may identify care pathways or medications that prevent further injury and enhance recovery.”

The PETAL clinical trials potentially help many types of patients including trauma, pneumonia and sepsis patients, Morris said.  

“What is wonderful about our Medical Center is that so many departments and nursing units are closely involved in the care of these patients,” Morris said. “Trauma, acute general surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, the burn unit, anesthesia, neurology and medical critical care have all been working closely together for many years to organize the care and study of these patients.”

As an outgrowth of these efforts, Morris, Miller and James H. Holmes IV, M.D., associate professor of surgery and director of the Burn Center, formed the Critical Illness, Injury and Recovery Research Center (CIIRRC), one of eight research centers supported by Wake Forest School of Medicine. “This research center will help us organize the development of clinical trials, from laboratory bench investigation to developing practice policy for critically ill patients,” said Morris, who serves as director of the CIIRRC. “Having the CIIRRC in place keeps Wake Forest Baptist competitive for NIH and Department of Defense grant support such as PETAL.” 

Wake Forest Baptist’s role in this national network is also to oversee recruitment of patients for the PETAL clinical trials from Moses Cone Hospital, the University of Virginia Medical Center and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. “Being part of this national network places Wake Forest Baptist at the leading edge of critical care research and will enable us to offer our patients care based upon the latest clinical trial findings,” Morris said. “Participation in this national network will allow Wake Forest Baptist to help shape care for critically ill patients for years to come.”


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