|From parking lot to CRU: The new facility will be a modular structure adjacent to the main NIEHS building, giving clinical researchers easy access to laboratory resources.
|Photo: Steve McCaw
By the middle of this summer, NIEHS will take its translational research to the next level when it opens an 11,500-square-foot clinical research unit (CRU) on its Research Triangle Park, N.C., campus.
Along with pulmonary health studies, the physician-
scientists who will be using the new facility have proposed a research portfolio that includes epigenetics, cardiovascular disease risk and reproductive health studies. The CRU will accommodate outpatient research only and will offer routine patient evaluation, fluoroscopy, x-ray and ultrasound imaging and sample collection
and processing. It will also feature specialized
diagnostic and analytical capabilities such as inhalation exposure measurement and bronchoscopy
with bronchial sampling.
Last year, Dr. William Martin, director of translational
research, became the first clinician recruited by NIEHS specifically for development of an on-site clinical research facility. He joined director of clinical research Dr. Perry Black-shear, who will oversee operation of the CRU. The two have been recruiting new clinicians and calling upon the talents of physicians and scientists
already employed by the institute.
Previously, NIEHS research involving human tissue sampling or functional assessment could not be done on the main campus. The facility
is situated adjacent to the main laboratory and will permit investigators to do studies that involve on-site sample collection, pulmonary function assessment and laboratory analysis.
In addition to helping NIEHS researchers overcome
the difficulties of off-site clinical research in Bethesda and at collaborators’ institutions,
the CRU also represents a shift in NIEHS research focus. According to Martin, the CRU will encourage NIEHS scientists and grantees to develop protocols that promote interdisciplinary
research at various levels.
Martin sees the CRU as a “metaphor for the changes that are happening within the institute.” He predicts that “we’ll see the portfolio evolve even more dramatically than it has already. Five years from now, our research may be going in directions we never envisioned initially.”
As the outpatient unit progresses, the NIEHS advisory council will oversee clinical research efforts and help address questions about the future direction of an inpatient facility, which is planned for some time around 2012 if construction
funding becomes available.