NIH awards major grant to Chicago-based consortium to create center for AIDS research

September 08, 2009

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a consortium of Chicago-based institutions, led by Rush University Medical Center, a five-year, $3.75-million grant to establish a Developmental Center for AIDS Research, creating a comprehensive research infrastructure to spur basic science, clinical studies and translational research in the prevention, detection and treatment of HIV infection and AIDS.

The new center is one of only two in the Midwest - the other is in Cleveland, Ohio - and was the only developmental center funded this year. NIH has funded 20 such centers at major academic institutions across the country.

The center in Chicago involves investigators from Rush, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Cook County Health and Hospitals System, who will collaborate across disciplines and institutions to advance HIV/AIDS research. Chicago ranks sixth among U.S. cities in the number of HIV cases, with approximately 21,000 known infections and another 5,000 presumed infections.

"With this grant, we have an unparalleled opportunity to make Chicago an epicenter for AIDS research, focusing on translational research that takes investigations from bench to bedside, and out to the community, to make a truly significant impact," said Alan Landay, PhD, chairman of immunology and microbiology at Rush, director of the new center, and an internationally recognized expert in immunology and HIV pathogenesis.

The NIH funding will be used to create shared "core" facilities that provide expertise and services to participating laboratories at all three institutions.

Rush will head the administrative and developmental cores, with responsibility for strategic planning and operational management. It will oversee scientific communications and funding for important new areas of research and launch a special outreach effort to share advances with the affected community in Chicago.

The University of Illinois at Chicago will direct the basic science and the social and behavioral sciences cores. The basic science core will provide access to, and training in, state-of-the-art technologies for laboratory investigations in virology, molecular biology, immunology and other areas. The social and behavioral sciences core will support research involving social, behavioral and psychosocial issues and facilitate studies and interventions in local, national and international communities.

"Numerous scientists and community activists in our three institutions have been working largely independently to reduce the scourge of HIV/AIDS. This research initiative will provide opportunities for us to share and build upon our varied expertise and perspectives. I fully expect new prevention and treatment strategies to arise from this exciting collaboration," said Robert Bailey, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the UIC School of Public Health and co-director of the new AIDS research center.

Cook County Health and Hospitals System will direct the clinical core, assisting investigators with clinical and epidemiologic research and facilitating translation of basic science discoveries into the patient care realm. The Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center for the Prevention, Care and Research of Infectious Diseases, a partnership between Rush and Cook County, sees more than 5,000 HIV-infected individuals each year from diverse communities and has extensive expertise in HIV clinical care and clinical research.

"By including Cook County Health and Hospitals System, the outstanding research team brought together by this grant will be able to address issues that increase HIV-associated morbidity and mortality among the disadvantaged minority populations we serve. That is an extremely important mission for the new center," said Dr. Audrey French, director of the clinical core and director of research at Cook County's CORE Center.

The Developmental Center for AIDS Research in Chicago will concentrate its investigations around three themes: HIV and women, with an emphasis on behavior and viral pathogenesis; HIV and aging, including studies of behavioral, cardiovascular, immune system and neurocognitive issues; and HIV and drug abuse, focusing on behavioral questions and neuropharmacology.
-end-
Rush University Medical Center includes a 674-bed (staffed) hospital; the Johnston R. Bowman Health Center; and Rush University (Rush Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College). Rush is currently constructing a 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot hospital building at the corner of Ashland Avenue and Congress Parkway. The new hospital, scheduled to open in 2012, is the centerpiece of a 10-year campus redevelopment plan called the Rush Transformation, which also includes a new orthopedics building (to open in the Fall 2009), renovations of selected existing buildings and demolition of obsolete buildings. The new hospital is being designed and built to conserve energy and water, reduce waste and use sustainable building materials. Rush is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It will be the first full-service "green" hospital in Chicago.

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu

The Cook County Health & Hospitals System (CCHHS) oversees a comprehensive, integrated system of healthcare throughout Chicago and suburban Cook County through its hospitals, ambulatory and community health network clinics, public health department, correctional healthcare facility, and outpatient infectious disease center.

The CCHHS (formerly known as the Cook County Bureau of Health Services) is comprised of: John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, Provident Hospital, Oak Forest Hospital, Cook County Department of Public Health, Cermak Health Services, the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center and the 16 Ambulatory and Community Health Network health centers.

For more information about the Centers for AIDS Research program at the National Institutes of Health, visit www3.niaid.nih.gov/labsandresources/resources/cfar.

Rush University Medical Center

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