New MU research center provides room for advanced care, testing

Thursday, September 27, 2012 | 8:23 p.m. CDT; updated 8:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 27, 2012

COLUMBIA — Big scissors were taken out Thursday to cut the yellow ribbon that officially opened the new Clinical Research Center at MU.

Jamal Ibdah, director of the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science and senior associate dean for research at the MU School of Medicine, opened the ceremony by welcoming attendees to the new center, located on the fifth floor between the medical school and University Hospital.

The new center is part of a $5 million multi-stage renovation project and will help scientists and physicians work together for research, as well as make MU more competitive for grants. The research center will also give patients access to new treatments that are used solely at the center.

“Patients can now get the latest and greatest treatment and get it before anyone else,” said William Steinmann, medical director of the new center.

Ibdah said several research grants are already being submitted to use the facility, including a trial studying an obesity condition called “fatty liver disease.”

“Currently there is no drug treatment for this, and since this is a lifestyle disease we are implementing different types of exercise as well as different types of diet caloric restrictions to reduce the calories and see how that will impact the disease,” Ibdah said.

He said the center's staff will do a liver biopsy and monitor either exercise or calorie restriction for trial participants for six months. Then they will look at what the “impact” of the liver inflammation and liver fat is.

Clinical research has already been present in the hospital, but it never had its own space, so the hospital's staff could not conduct phase 1 trials — trials conducted on individuals for the first time with a goal to find the correct dosage, determine how the body processes and excretes the drug and what side effects, if any, will occur.

Ibdah said the idea for this center happened back in 2007 with the establishment of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.

“It became clear that MU needs a clinical research center to facilitate the translation of scientific discoveries at MU to health,” Ibdah said. “It was also necessary to allow MU to compete for a large $20 million clinical and translational science award from NIH (National Institutes of Health).”

The new center features an advanced inpatient Phase 1 clinical trials unit, five inpatient beds — each equipped with flat-screen televisions and leather massage chairs — three outpatient exam rooms, a metabolic kitchen and an exercise facility. Work areas for researchers consist of meeting rooms, a general laboratory and information technology facilities.

The center will also build training programs for medical students interested in becoming investigators and future research scientists.

“Students can see the action at the first level,” Steinmann said. “It’s one thing to show them in the classroom, but it’s another thing to show them in real life.” 

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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