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The opening of a new stem cell research laboratory on the fifth floor of Lifespan’s Coro Building in the Knowledge District affirms the city’s place as a budding academic clinical-research hub, according to Dr. Peter Quesenberry, director of hematology oncology at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital.
“We are at the forefront of academic medicine in the United States,” Quesenberry said last week. “We may not be recognized [by others], but our science is as interesting as anything going on in Boston or at Harvard,” he said.
The construction of the new 11,000-sqare-foot lab, a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence for Stem Cell Biology, was funded through a $300,000 National Institutes of Health grant to Quesenberry.
The laboratory will support state-of-the-art clinical research in the areas of cancer, tissue injury and basic stem cell biology, according to hospital officials. The research includes use of vesicle cells to repair tissue damage to the kidney and the liver, restoring these organs to normal functions, and vesicle cell treatments of breast cancer and prostate cancer, according to Quesenberry.
Some of these ongoing research efforts are moving toward commercialization, according to Quesenberry.
“We are working with salivary spit vesicles to develop a biomarker to detect traumatic brain injury when a concussion is not apparent,” Quesenberry said. Under his direction, researchers are now studying both a Pop Warner football team in Bristol and the Brown University football team, using special helmets to record every hit that a player receives, and monitoring the size and number of the biomarkers. “We have a patent in on this and we’re forming a new biotech company.”
Another promising treatment developed by researchers working in the hematology oncology lab just received FDA approval for a clinical study to treat six trial patients with leukemia and lymphoma, according to Quesenberry. Using a blood product with a chromosome mismatch to have it purposely rejected by the patient’s immune response, the treatment stimulates the patient’s immune response system to reject the cancer, Quesenberry explained.
The new lab space in the Coro Building is the first phase in turning the entire 270,000-square-foot building into a clinical-research facility, according to Peter Snyder, senior vice president and chief research officer for Lifespan. The Lifespan administrators will be moving back to the Rhode Island Hospital campus.