The Fundamental Importance of Medical Research

Timothy J. Babineau, MD, President and CEO, Lifespan

A defining characteristic of an academic medical center like Lifespan is a commitment to medical research. For many, research may seem like an abstract concept: Laboratories teaming with white coat-clad scientists obsessing over hypotheses whose time might or might not come.

The reality is that at Lifespan research touches lives each day and provides hope where there was once none. Newport resident Nancy Curran found such hope last year when she enrolled in a Alzheimer’s disease clinical study at Rhode Island Hospital. Partnering with Lifespan researchers, Mrs. Curran is helping further our knowledge of a drug that we hope can slow Alzheimer’s progression.

At Hasbro Children’s Hospital, a study recently provided seven-year-old Henry Cross’ parents precious knowledge by identifying markers for type 1 diabetes, helping the family better prepare for the  disease’s onset.

It’s because of cases like these, as well as thousands of others, that Lifespan continues to invest in research. We do this despite the financial challenges gripping our nation’s health care system.

Clearly, our research efforts not only benefit Rhode Islanders, but the world.

Lifespan researchers hold patents for artificial wrists, a liver cancer vaccine, artificial lubricants for osteoarthritis and new methods to treat malignant brain tumors, among others. Furthermore, there is an explosion of research looking at individualized treatments tailored to each patient’s unique biology, especially in cancer research.

Lifespan’s talented researchers – most of them leaders in their fields – continue to garner attention and grant funding, even as federal research dollars shrink.

In August, Lifespan was awarded a five-year, $11.8 million federal grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to establish a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) to help address the opioid overdose epidemic. A month later, a $9.4 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health was awarded to Lifespan to create a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence to investigate causes of and possible new treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a.k.a., the super bug.

In fiscal year 2018, the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center received multi-year grant awards totaling $25.4 million to address child and adolescent mental health issues. The total marked a 25-percent increase in funding over the previous year.

Much like the discovery of penicillin in 1942 or the revelation of the double helical structure of DNA in 1953, our hope is that our many dynamic research endeavors will yield medically and societally transformative knowledge that will ultimately benefit patients.

It is difficult to describe the profound impact of medical research on the quality and security of our lives, so I’ll defer to Mrs. Curran: “I feel if everyone participated in research, we’d be a lot further along. I want to scream it from the mountaintops and tell everyone there is hope!”

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