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UI research center celebrating 40th anniversary

BY ERICA MAHONEY | OCTOBER 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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In 1972, the University of Iowa was asked to propose a grant to highlight basic and clinical research, education, and community programs focused on cardiovascular advancements. If successful, the UI would see increased support for these programs by the National Institutes of Health.

Two years later, the UI François Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center was created as the first main multidisciplinary, biomedical research institute at the university.

UI cardiology Professor Barry London, a codirector of the center, said the facility, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has changed with time but has always been based on science. He said he is looking forward to greater achievements in the future.

“The strength of the Cardiovascular Center was the initiation of the idea of team science, in which you have groups of investigators who all have moderately different interests working together, giving different perspectives, trying to answer basic science questions,” he said.

UI Professor François Abboud, the founding director of the center, said technology advancements over the past 40 years has largely expanded what the center can do.

“Of course, technology helps us in very detailed diagnostics techniques and imaging techniques that allow us to identify the disease,” he said. “Now, the ability to study molecules and change allow us to predict patients who are at higher risk and to target the molecules that cause the disease with specific drugs and chemicals.”

Abboud said technology has definitely helped to create more effective therapy for patients, and researchers have come a long way since the center was founded.

London said that in the future, one of the goals of the center is to put more focus on translating research into products and devices that can prevent and treat heart disease.

“We need to have an increasing focus on the translation of basic science into things that have overt clinical utility,” he said. “So transitional research, clinical research, and product development … sort of having an entrepreneurial focus.”

London said an emphasis will also be placed on international relationships.

“As we move forward, we’re starting to set up international partnerships with University of Heidelberg [Germany] and Peking University [China], so we need to be more broad and more global,” he said. “It’s one thing to be a basic science research center in the middle of a cornfield, but we have to expand beyond the cornfield.”

London said he would also like the center to get more recognition for the work it does.

“[The UI] has been less well-known than some of the coastal universities, largely because I think there’s something about Iowans not tooting their horn quite as loudly as some other places do, and also it’s just not a place that everybody goes all the time,” he said. “I think that we have to establish ourselves as a center that is nationally and internationally known for what we do really, really well. We’ve trained thousands of people, we’ve brought in $450 million in NIH funding … a lot of great things have come out of here.”

UI Professor Peter Gruber, a cofounder of the center, said he looks forward to the research still to come from the facility.

“We celebrate the successes of the past, but I am most excited by the possibilities for the future,” he said in an email.


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