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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Translational medicine makes new strides

The UA is working to create a physical place to expand interdisciplinary research and education.

Technology and policy remain as focuses for the university’s research enterprise — and translational medicine remains a feature of this bridge, according to UA officials.

Several science-intensive areas on campus, such as the BIO5 Institute and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, work together to promote medical initiatives throughout the university.

Dr. Fernando Martinez, pediatrics professor and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center and the BIO5 Institute, said that “”knowledge for knowledge’s sake”” will still exist, but translating that from the research bench to the patient’s bed will become increasingly important.

“”Once you are successful in your little fiefdom, in your little silo, it’s hard to want to risk and go to the next step, but this country has been built on risk,”” he said. “”We have to take the risk to develop what we’re learning as knowledge into instruments to help people because that’s why they are funding our research.””

Martinez said BIO5 is looking to create a new institute to house interdisciplinary and translational medicinal work.

“”We have really strong biomedical sciences. We don’t have a lot who build a bridge between a scientific funding and application of the patient,”” said Leslie Tolbert, vice president of research. Most universities of our size bring in more grants from the National Institutes of Health, she said, but the UA has a special gift in utilizing the interdisciplinary research culture to further research in an educational setting.

“”We are not a research institute,”” Tolbert said. “”Then, it would be set up more like a business with research for research’s sake. But we’re a university. We do research in a way that’s tightly coupled with education.””

Biosciences initiatives, like the BIO5 research park in Oro Valley, Ariz., is also proof of continual innovation in the field, said Bruce Wright, associate vice president for University Research Parks.

“”The next step is truly to dare to work together,”” Martinez said. His selection to head BIO5 came in part by the way he utilized translation in his own professional field, asthma.

In that field, he said, the UA “”has the whole spectrum … from the very basic, basic scientist that is studying how genes work to the person doing directly clinical trials and trying to find new ways to treat children with asthma … and to take into account what the public tells us.””

This is part of the model that Martinez hopes to facilitate in the creation of a new physical place to encourage interdisciplinary work in the UA — with a new building in BIO5 and a clinical and translational science institute.

Martinez said the institute would provide, “”a common home for people that are trying to improve health, improve nutrition, treat disease, prevent disease and cure disease.””

Already, people from around the university are working in these areas.

Gary Thompson, the dean of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, is analyzing leafy greens and genetically modified crops particularly with an interest in nutrition and obesity.

“”Food related to obesity, we’ve done that for a long time,”” Thompson said. His department focuses on farmers and ranchers and translating that practical application to a research lab and eventually to funded research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“”It’s not to create one more level of bureaucracy. Please, we don’t need that,”” Martinez said. “”It’s a place to put people together, to connect people, to connect to the public.””

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