Destination Innovation

Mapping the Future of Research at UAB

By Charles Buchanan and Matt WindsorBiomedical research at UAB spans hundreds of disciplines and attracts more than $400 million in funding each year from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other sources. But with grant applications more competitive than ever, the UAB School of Medicine and UAB Health System are placing special emphasis on areas in which scientists can accelerate their discoveries from the laboratory to patient-ready therapies.  The AMC 21 strategic plan, announced in November 2011, calls for investments in new research positions and equipment in six key areas. Here is a look at some of the major initiatives being pursued in the plan.

Big idea: Energetics. The red-hot field examines the relationship among physical activity, diet, and cancer development. Understanding the molecular basis of obesity will allow researchers at UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) to make significant contributions to treatment and care.Other hot topics: Stem cell- and T cell-based therapeutics, expansion of facilities for phase 1 clinical trials
Big idea: Synergy. By building a Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center based on the successful model of the CCC, UAB plans to unite clinicians and researchers around eight key areas of heart disease, including heart failure, arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.Other hot topics: Cardiac regeneration using stem cell techniques, novel cardiac imaging, device therapies
Big idea: Beta cells. A top priority for UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center is preventing the loss of these vital insulin-producing cells, which could one day lead to a cure for the disease.Other hot topics: New therapeutic targets for metabolic signaling, which is implicated in the development of diabetes and obesity
Big idea: Specialized therapy. Discovering new insights on the genetic basis of immune response will allow physicians to tailor therapies to individual patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases. Someday, responses could be tweaked preemptively to prevent diseases from occurring at all.Other hot topics: The new Comprehensive Transplant Institute will help surgeons specializing in different organs collaborate on complex cases and improve coordination for all transplant care at UAB.
Big idea: Treating TB. Even though tuberculosis is a growing global health threat, it’s been 40 years since clinicians have had a new drug with a new mechanism of action for targeting the disease. Researchers will focus on new therapeutics to cure TB infection and fight drug-resistant strains.Other hot topics: Clinical trials for hepatitis C treatments; new vaccines for viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, including HIV
Big idea: Halting neurodegeneration. An aging population means a spike in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, along with other cognitive and memory disorders. UAB’s already internationally renowned research in these areas will be supplemented with 21 new faculty members.Other hot topics: New treatments for brain cancers, chronic pain, and epilepsy

Learn more about the AMC 21 plan, including its focus on innovation in clinical care and medical education at UAB:

www.uabmedicine.org/amc21

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