Dedication of The Joan and Joel Smilow Research Center
Smilow Research Center Focuses on Translational Medicine
Photo: René Perez
With the opening of the Joan and Joel Smilow Research Center, the first major addition to the campus in more than a decade, NYU Medical Center heralds a new era of research.
The 13-story state-of-the-art building is designed to promote the translation of basic research into better ways of diagnosing, preventing, and treating disease. In other words, to shorten the journey from the bench to the bedside. As Dean and CEO Robert M. Glickman, M.D., has noted, "the Smilow Research Center is about turning science into hope - the ultimate mission of an academic medical center."
Developing and testing new therapies can take decades, if the journey is completed at all. The basic goal of translational research is to build multidisciplinary teams of scientists that stretch from the laboratory to the clinic, ensuring that every possible resource is brought to bear on a particular challenge.
This approach to research is the heart and soul of the Smilow Research Center, which will ultimately be home to some 40 research teams, a mix of current investigators and new recruits. They will be dedicated to such fields as cancer, cardiovascular biology, neuroscience, dermatology, genetics, and infectious diseases. In this collaborative environment, researchers will be able to tackle vexing problems that might otherwise be too daunting for any single scientist.
To translate insights and discoveries into therapies, many disciplines - from molecular biology and genetics to biostatistics and pathology - come into play. The Smilow Research Center provides not only a meeting place for minds and a fertile ground for the cross-pollination of ideas, but the support needed for such activities.
Scientific collaboration is hardly a new concept, but synergy has not been a strategic goal. In recent years major biomedical breakthroughs, such as the deciphering of the human genome, have paved the way and created the need for novel forms of cooperation.
"Our burgeoning knowledge of molecules, pathways, and structures is exciting but also overwhelming," says David B. Roth, M.D., Ph.D., the Irene Diamond Professor of Immunology and Chairman of the Department of Pathology. "It's difficult to stay on top of all this detail and still keep in mind the big biological picture. Translational research is a way to unite the human perspective with the molecular detail."
Among the fruits of translational research are drugs such as Remicade (infliximab), a potent anti-inflammatory agent used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Remicade was born in the laboratory of Jan T. Vilcek, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology, a pioneer in the study of immune system regulators, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which promotes inflammation. In 1989 Dr. Vilcek and his colleague, Junming Le, Ph.D., adjunct Associate Professor of Microbiology, generated a monoclonal antibody against TNF. This antibody formed the basis of a widely used medication that has benefitted hundreds of thousands of people worldwide suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and other inflammatory diseases.
"Most medical centers have a wide gulf between basic scientists and clinicians. The challenge is to bring those groups together," says Moses Chao, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology and Neuroscience. "The Smilow Research Center provides an opportunity for enhanced interactions between different groups and disciplines."