February 15, 2002

New digestive disease center receives funding

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Dr. Ray DuBois will direct the new center.

New digestive disease center receives funding

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a five-year $5.6 million federal grant to open a new Digestive Disease Research Center in June.

The Vanderbilt Digestive Disease Research Center (VDDRC) is one of only 14 medical centers in the country to receive the National Institutes of Health funding and the only one in the mid-South.

The center will support investigators who carry out both clinical and basic research focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms for diseases of the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver and pancreas). The center will also offer pilot funding for research projects to examine colon cancer, peptic ulcer disease, liver disease, and nutritional defects. Four core laboratories will provide services such as advanced microscopy techniques, gene microarray analysis, novel cell isolation techniques and biostatistics to the investigators.

“This award brings a lot of prestige and research support for cutting edge technologies to Vanderbilt investigators focused on digestive disease pathology and etiology,” said Dr. Raymond N. DuBois Jr., Mina Cobb Wallace Professor of Gastroenterology and Cancer Prevention and director of the VDDRC.

“The funding we receive for the VDDRC will support core laboratories and will provide a complementary component to work going on in our patient care clinics.”

Dr. Brent Polk, who will serve as the co-director, is confident that the new center will benefit Vanderbilt. “I think this award is going to be one of the things that launches Vanderbilt into the next level of gastrointestinal research in this country,” said Polk, associate professor of Pediatrics. “And, with only a dozen or so such centers nationwide, it also raises us to the highest level of visibility for attracting new investigators into digestive disease related-research.”

Polk will direct two of the major arms of the VDDRC grant—the Pilot and Feasibility program and the Enrichment program.

The Pilot and Feasibility program will provide future leaders in pediatric and adult gastrointestinal research with necessary funds and protected time for research initiatives. The program will distribute $100,000 annually in research grants, plus a $25,000 young investigator award, presented biannually.

The Enrichment program will enable VDDRC members to invite 12 outside gastrointestinal experts to speak at Vanderbilt each year. The program also includes an annual retreat with a featured speaker. This year’s speaker is Michele Kedinger, Ph.D., from INSERM, the French Institute of Health and Medical Research. The Enrichment program also provides for a sabbatical program, offering investigators up to $4,000 for two weeks to visit other centers to learn new research techniques.

The long-range plan for the VDDRC includes space in MRB IV, a new research building in the planning stages. This goal will consolidate the research efforts by housing the divisions in one area.

“We feel like this center will be a great addition to Vanderbilt as a whole,” said DuBois. “We want to congratulate everyone for coming together and working so hard to make it happen. We could never have successfully competed for this type of funding without help from a number of Vanderbilt faculty and staff.”

"Aside from the important contribution to science this program will make, Vanderbilt has rightly joined the ranks of other centers of excellence in gastrointestinal biology," said Dr. Eric G. Neilson, Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine. "This is an important new step in our effort to recognize the important talent we have gathered in this institution."

Other centers currently funded include University of Pennsylvania Medical Center; University of North Carolina Medical Center; University of Chicago Medical Center; Massachusetts General Hospital; University of Michigan Medical Center; New England Medical Center and Tufts University; Boston’s Beth Israel, Brigham and Women’s, Children’s, Harvard Medical School and New England Deaconess Hospitals; Albert Einstein Medical Center; Stanford University Medical Center; Baylor College of Medicine; University of Southern California; University of California at Los Angeles; and Washington University Medical Center.