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Oct. 4, 2012 Volume 34, No. 7

Clinical Research Center poised to bring scientists and clinicians together

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NEW CENTER A ribbon cutting for the Clinical Research Center took place Sept. 27. Participants included, from left, Bill Hervey, chamber ambassador; Rob Duncan, MU vice chancellor for research; Jerry Parker, associate dean for research; Robert Churchill, medical school dean; Jamal Ibdah, medical school senior associate dean for research; William Steinman, director of the new center; Tom Trabue, ambassador chair of the Columbia Chair of Commerce; and Dennis Lynch, chamber ambassador. Justin Kelley photo


The center encourages interaction among scientists of various disciplines

MU Health Care leaders unveiled Sept. 27 the Clinical Research Center in the School of Medicine and the University Hospital.

The research center’s physical location in both the medical school and hospital suggests its goal: to build a better bridge between clinical medicine and biomedical medicine to improve patient care.

“The center is one more step in our growth,” said Deborah Pasch, executive director of University Hospital.

Conceived of about five years ago, the Clinical Research Center is part of a $5 million hospital renovation project. Before its opening, clinical medical studies usually took place in doctors’ offices and in a dedicated room on the hospital’s seventh floor. The center’s opening in a wing on the fifth floor means clinical trials now have a dedicated area.

Clinical trials will test the safety and effectiveness of medical treatments, such as those involving drugs, types of exercise, diets and mental-health therapies. Many trials will be Phase 1 drug tests, where healthy inpatient volunteers are given medicine to see how the body processes it.

The center is strategically designed to encourage interaction and the sharing of ideas among scientists. It boasts meeting rooms, lounge areas and a general laboratory where scientists can interact.

“The center will galvanize research,” said William Steinmann, director of the research center. Patients, meanwhile, will benefit from access to cutting-edge treatments before they are widely available elsewhere, he said.

Besides an inpatient Phase 1 unit, the research center has five inpatient beds and three outpatient exam rooms. There is also a metabolic kitchen for nutrition studies and to prepare meals for inpatients, and an exercise room equipped with aerobic machines to test fitness.

Scientists from various disciplines will use the center, Robert Duncan, MU vice chancellor for research, told about 60 gathered at the ribbon cutting. Training programs for physicians wanting to contribute to clinical research will also be available.

“Engineers could test new orthopedic devices in the center’s exercise facilities,” he said. 

“Agriculture scientists could study new diets using the metabolic kitchen. Investigators involved in successful animal studies across MU could make the leap to human testing by using the center’s Phase 1 clinical trials unit.”

Duncan pointed to the center’s potential for effecting medical innovation. 

“It is exactly the type of critical infrastructure we require to transform discoveries made across campus into new products and services for patients,” he said. 

“We will be more competitive for grants, contracts and commercialization efforts that bring significant resources and recognition to our campus and community.”