Rosalind Franklin University Announces Creation of Three New Disease-Focused Research Centers
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The university recently announced the formation of three new disease-based research centers focused respectively on genetic disorders, cancer cell biology, and proteomics and molecular therapeutics.
“We’re realigning our research strengths around core areas of scientific expertise with the goal of fostering innovation to help move our research out of the lab and into the marketplace to improve human health,” said Dr. K. Michael Welch, RFU president and CEO.
The new centers, along with the new Brain Science Institute and its three supporting centers, announced by the university in February, will be housed in the Innovation and Research Park, now under construction on RFU’s campus. Expected to open in summer 2019, the space is designed to spur creative collaboration among academic and industry scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs.
“We’re recognizing both our own areas of research strength as well as significant bioscience industry interest in developing new diagnostics and therapeutics in genetic diseases, cancer and protein-based therapies and biomarkers,” said Ronald Kaplan, PhD, RFU executive vice president for research. “This realignment positions us to partner more effectively with industry to achieve important advancements in patient care and wellness.”
The three newest RFU research centers and their directors, include:
- Center for Genetic Diseases
The director is Michelle Hastings, PhD, a Chicago Medical School associate professor of cell biology. The center will look at a number of deadly diseases caused by aberrant RNA and expand the utilization of a novel antisense oligonucleotide platform that is designed to target and remedy specific genetic defects, based on the extensive publications of Dr. Hastings in this field. Diseases currently targeted include cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Usher syndrome, Batten disease and Down syndrome. Rare diseases and disorders currently number approximately 7,000, with more discovered each day, according to not-for-profit Global Genes. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States — nearly 10 percent of the population — are living with rare genetic diseases.
- Center for Cancer Cell Biology, Immunology and Infection
RFU is currently recruiting a new director for this center, which will promote greater understanding of basic cell and molecular biology, infection, and cancer immunotherapy. Cancer and infectious diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and continuous new therapeutic interventions have revolutionized the field. The center will investigate the mechanisms that underlie fundamental processes such as tissue development, oncogenic viral infection, oncogenesis, and stress and immune responses. Knowledge gained will provide insights that lead to the development of new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for cancer and immunocompromised diseases. The center will also study the changes in genome architecture and gene expression during stress, oncogenesis and metastasis.
- Center for Proteomics and Molecular Therapeutics
Director Marc J. Glucksman, PhD, Chicago Medical School professor and chair of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the Midwest Proteome Center, has published extensively in the field of proteomics. The center will develop novel broad-based, mass screening procedures to identify biomarkers and assess structure-function relationships for diagnostics, risk factors and drug targets for treatment of Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and endocrine cancers such as prostate cancer. The development of biomarkers is a rapidly growing field for the creation of precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, which targets specific subpopulations of patients with similar disease profiles. Biomarkers are becoming critical to screening key patient populations.