Monday, March 25, 2002

MS research just part of larger effort at UC

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A $5 million gift to launch a multiple sclerosis center is but a first step in what University of Cincinnati officials describe as a much larger effort to expand brain-related research and treatment in Cincinnati.

        UC's Neuroscience Institute, launched in 1998, is planning to create four “translational research centers” that would focus on stroke, brain tumors, brain trauma and functional disorders, including MS, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

        The gift announced Wednesday from Oliver Waddell, former chief executive of Star Bancorp, would underwrite the first of the centers.

        The money would pay for recruiting an acclaimed MS expert to serve as a director, for other staff and start-up expenses and for a research endowment.

        “Mr. Waddell's gift is a wonderful thing for a lot of reasons. We have an opportunity here to create the best neurosciences program in the country,” said Dr. Joseph Broderick, a nationally acclaimed stroke expert and member of the Neuroscience Institute.

        Translational research describes the animal tests and human clinical trials that are needed to move a

        lab discovery into medical practice. UC has growing numbers of basic science researchers, is considered a front-runner in generating genetically engineered mice for medical testing and provides large amounts of direct patient care.

        But it has been criticized over the years for lacking involvement in clinical trials in various areas, from cancer to brain disorders.

        Work has begun on many fronts to change that.

        UC already is considered a national leader in stroke research and treatment.

        Experts here played large roles in developing the concept of viewing strokes as “brain attacks” that require immediate treatment to limit permanent damage.

        In fact, Dr. Broderick and other members of the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Stroke Team serve as a rapid response team that travels to community hospitals to help care for stroke victims. The organization has served as a national model.

        Stroke research at UC already attracts more than $5 million a year in research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

        The money is used for projects ranging from studying new medications to searching for genetic links to brain hemorrhages.

        The goal is to generate the same level of research funding for the other brain-related programs, Dr. Broderick said.

        The Neuroscience Institute projects represent some of the biggest early steps in UC's Millennium Plan, which calls for adding about 260 scientists and doubling research grant funding at UC over 10 years.

        Mr. Waddell's gift was the second large health donation to be announced last week.

        On Tuesday, Cincinnati Bell and the Boomer Esiason Foundation donated $1 million to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for expanded research into cystic fibrosis. Mr. Esiason's son has the disease.

        Such large gifts, especially those on the scale of Mr. Waddell's, help accelerate the entire effort, said Mary Sue Cheeseman, assistant senior vice president for development at the medical center.

        “The Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinics of the world already have this kind of huge support. This is exactly the kind of gift that helps us get that going here,” she said.

        In addition to private donations, UC has been urging state officials to pump hundreds of millions into expanded biotech research to improve health care and promote economic growth in Ohio.

        Mr. Waddell said he donated the funds to UC in large part because they would have a dual scientific and economic impact.

        “Bringing in top experts from all over the world will be a big economic boon to the community,” Mr. Waddell said.

        Recruitment has begun for the new MS director.

        The goal is to make a hire within a year, Dr. Broderick said.

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