University will collaborate on asthma research study

Craig Gustafson

The University is collaborating with five other Minnesota medical centers on the largest asthma research project ever done with human subjects.
The American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Center Consortium of Minnesota is part of a nationwide network that includes 19 other medical institutions.
“The overall goal is to further our knowledge about asthma,” said Dr. Malcolm Blumenthal, director of the University’s Asthma Allergy Center. “This is a wonderful opportunity to study asthma.”
The other five centers in Minnesota are HealthSystem Minnesota, Clinical Research Institute, Hennepin County Medical Center, Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic Health System.
Blumenthal said the consortium will provide a huge population base that will include a variety of ethnic groups, geographic locations and economic classes.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, research on asthma might not be coming soon enough. They estimate the costs related to asthma for 2000 will be more than $14 billion.
Minnesota currently has 255,000 asthma sufferers, including 85,000 children. Officials said the actual number might be higher because children are more difficult to diagnose.
Between 1982 and 1994, the disease has risen more than 60 percent in Minnesota households, affecting one in five people.
“Asthma varies a great deal,” Blumenthal said. The study will help classify asthma and allow physicians to find methods to stop asthma before it starts.
The goal for the consortium is to amass $1.5 million during the next five years to fund a regional research center. The lung association is attempting to raise more than $20 million to support the entire research initiative across the country.
“A lot of research is top-down funding where the money comes from the government,” said Dr. Richard Woellner, chairman of the research committee. “Ours will be unique because we are funded privately.”
Woellner said private funding is being utilized because there isn’t enough federal money for this type of initiative.
A small portion of the money has already been raised through research grant funds from Mayo Clinic and The Duluth Clinic Education and Research Foundation.
Mari Drake, director of professional education and research for the American Lung Association, said the University and the other facilities across the state were chosen because of their proven track record in the asthma field.
“People who generally don’t have the capacity to work together because of the politics of the business have sat down at the same table with a common interest,” she said.

Craig Gustafson covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at [email protected] He also can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3233.