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University of Iowa News Release

 

May 18, 2009

UI Gene Therapy Center receives $5.5 million grant renewal

The University of Iowa Center for Gene Therapy has received a five-year, $5.5 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The center, which has been continuously funded by the NIH since it was established in 1998, provides infrastructure and support for gene therapy researchers and promotes interdisciplinary research and training in molecular medicine and gene therapy approaches for treating cystic fibrosis and other inherited diseases.

"The center has greatly strengthened gene therapy-based research programs at the UI, while also serving as a national resource for researchers performing gene therapy and cystic fibrosis research," said center director John Engelhardt (left), Ph.D., professor and head of anatomy and cell biology at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. "Discoveries by center researchers have enhanced the usefulness of gene therapy technologies to both study and treat genetic diseases."

The center runs several research core facilities that provide the specialized experimental materials and technologies commonly used in gene therapy and molecular medicine research. The center's capacity to share these resources and research tools, coupled with active collaboration between center researchers and colleagues at other research institutions and private companies, helps advance gene therapy technologies at the UI and beyond. For example, the center established a consortium of lung transplant centers to gather lung tissue samples from patients with cystic fibrosis undergoing lung transplantation.

"The lung tissue donated by these patients is an extremely useful resource which allows us to build models to study disease processes in human cells affected by cystic fibrosis and test the gene-based therapies we develop within the center," said Engelhardt, who also holds the Roy J. Carver Chair in Molecular Medicine

The center also takes an active role in education and training by providing pilot funding for new initiatives in gene therapy-based research at the UI.

"Fostering the development of talented young scientists and helping them become independent researchers is an important goal of the center," Engelhardt said. "Over the past nine years, the center's Pilot and Feasibility Program has sponsored 50 projects and brought numerous new members and expertise into the center."

Beverly Davidson, Ph.D., UI professor of internal medicine, neurology, and molecular physiology and biophysics, who also is the Roy J. Carver Professor in Internal Medicine, is associate director of the center. The center's more than 60 investigators include faculty from both clinical and basic science departments in the UI Carver College of Medicine, as well as researchers from the UI colleges of public health, pharmacy, engineering and liberal arts and sciences.

For more information on the center, visit http://genetherapy.genetics.uiowa.edu/index.shtml.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917, jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu