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By Richard Asinof
(Updated, 1:30 p.m.)
PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island Hospital has received a five-year, $10.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, hospital officials announced a news conference this morning in the lobby of Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
The grant, one of the largest in the hospital’s history, has been awarded to hospital’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Skeletal Health and Repair. The grant supports the second phase of research, building on a Phase I grant awarded in 2007 for $11 million.
Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation – Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Reps. James R. Langevin and David Cicilline – along with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras praised the award as an investment in Providence’s Knowledge District that would translate into new jobs, new biomedical companies, and a reduction in health care costs for patients.
Whitehouse lauded the grant as an investment in one of Rhode Island’s core assets – the research interconnection between the state’s hospitals and universities.
“In Rhode Island, we have a few core assets – our beaches for tourism, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the satellite of industries that support it, our big universities and our ports,” Whitehouse said. “The coordination between our hospitals and our universities creates the opportunity for the biomedical industry in the Knowledge District to really take off. This is going to be a continued growth area for as far as the eye can see into the future.”
Dr. Michael Ehrlich, chief of the department of orthopedics at Rhode Island Hospital and Miriam Hospital, said that the grant would spur new business development through the development of patents for the research. A new angel group of private investors is being created to fund the development of new companies based on the research, Ehrlich said.
“The more research there is in the state, in one place, the more areas of interactions we find,” Ehrlich told the Providence Business News, indicating that new research has developed a biochemical way to determine if people have had concussions. “There is also the work of Quian Chen [director of the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence] on a new way to change the gene structure of cartilage,” he continued, which will hopefully translate into new advances in joint replacement surgeries.
There are an estimated 46 million people in the United Stats with cartilage and joint diseases, often termed arthritis, according to Chen. The numbers are statistically higher in Rhode Island – 33 percent of men and 25 percent of women, compared to national figures of 24 percent of women and 18 percent of men, have cartilage and joint disease.
“Rhode Island’s population is aging, due in no small part to the baby boomer generation,” Chen said. “We also have to take into consideration the obesity epidemic plaguing our country, as weight can play a major role in the development of joint and cartilage disease.”