New center aims to improve U’s

Sean Madigan

Support for biomedical research must begin in the Medical School, Dr. David Nathan told more than 50 University Medical School staff and professionals Wednesday at the Weisman Art Museum.
Wednesday’s event, which featured a presentation from Nathan, the president of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University Medical School, marked the dedication of the University’s new Center for Molecular and Cellular Therapy. The center will become one of the preeminent research facilities in the nation, bridging the gap between laboratory research and clinical trials.
“The goal is to move the University to the top ranks of molecular and cellular research in the country,” University President Mark Yudof said.
Many times researchers have difficulties finding support to make the jump from laboratory research to clinical research. Clinical research involves more human interaction.
“Clinical research begins in the medical schools,” Nathan said. He defines clinical research as patient-oriented research with direct interaction with human subjects.
“You have to be interested in the charts and the patient’s name, not just grinding up some cells,” Nathan said.
The center aims to make the transition for therapies developed in the laboratory to clinical trials faster, quicker and better, said Dr. Jeff McCullough, the center’s new director. He added that the new center should draw more students and faculty to the University.
The center recently appointed McCullough director and holder of the Variety Children’s Association Chair in Molecular and Cellular Therapy, which carries a $1 million endowment.
McCullough said he hopes the same University, whose research was responsible for the development of a heart and lung machine — that makes open heart surgery possible — and the first bone marrow transplant, will achieve similar success in molecular and cellular therapy with the new center.
Founder of the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry, McCullough directed the University’s blood bank for 20 years. He is a professor of laboratory medicine and pathology.