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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Vascular Medicine Institute at University of Pittsburgh Receives Up To $15 Million in Continued Funding

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 18, 2011 – The Vascular Medicine Institute (VMI) of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine today received a new commitment of up to $7.5 million from the Blood Science Foundation and the Institute for Transfusion Medicine (ITxM), as well as an additional commitment of up to $7.5 million in a phased, five-year renewal from The Hemophilia Center of Western Pennsylvania (HCWP).

Prior commitments of $7.5 million each from ITxM and HCWP supported the establishment of VMI in 2008 and have fostered its development as a national leader in vascular biology research.

After a ceremony on Friday, Nov. 18, Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean, School of Medicine; Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., UPMC senior vice president and chief medical officer; ITxM President and Chief Executive Officer James P. Covert; ITxM board chairman Charles H. Bracken; HCWP President and Medical Director Margaret V. Ragni, M.D; HCWP board chair Missy M. Unkovic; and other leaders will tour the state-of-the-art lab facilities that were made possible in part by the initial $15 million investment from ITxM and HCWP and a $15 million construction “stimulus grant” awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“We have been able to recruit top-notch clinicians and researchers to VMI due to the support we have received from ITxM and HCWP, which are committed to improving the health of people who receive blood transfusions and patients with hemophilia, sickle cell disease, pulmonary and systemic hypertension, atherosclerosis and other conditions characterized by abnormalities in blood flow, oxygen-carrying red blood cells and blood vessel disease,” said VMI Director Mark Gladwin, M.D., professor and chief, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Pitt School of Medicine.

The construction project, which implemented LEED principles, used building products that were all made in America, and most came from within 500 miles of Pittsburgh. Approximately 86 percent of the construction debris that left the job site was recycled, and many building materials came from recycling processes, such as epoxy terrazzo flooring made from a porcelain aggregate of old sinks. New windows were installed to provide natural light and thermal and motion sensing lights reduce energy consumption.

VMI researchers, which include faculty from the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, will conduct bench-to-bedside efforts in vascular biology, such as finding diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for pulmonary hypertension, which is a high blood pressure condition of the lungs, and uncovering the pathways for red blood cell destruction in sickle cell anemia.

“We aim to explore blood vessels, which maintain all of our organ systems in health and disease, and to study the cells and proteins that travel through them:  red cells, platelets, white cells and clotting factors,” Dr. Gladwin said. “This broad approach will enable the development of new therapies that may be effective across traditional medical disciplines, from blood banking to sickle cell disease to diabetes to coronary artery disease, to hemophilia and beyond.”

The VMI includes the Pulmonary Hypertension Research Center, which was developed to provide clinical and basic research to advance treatments for patients with cardiopulmonary problems due to conditions such as interstitial lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and the Vascular Clinical and Translational Research Center, which is home to sophisticated technologies for the assessment of lung function, blood flow and other vascular measures for patients in clinical studies.

With Central Blood Bank, which is a subsidiary of ITxM, the VMI is sponsoring a blood drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the ballroom at William Pitt Union on the same day.

For lab B-roll, contact Anita Srikameswaran at 412-578-9193 or SrikamAV@upmc.edu.

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