Public Release: 

Pitt awarded federal grant to facilitate massive pulmonary clinical trials program

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 5, 2015 -The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and School of Medicine investigators will be leading a $15 million, five-year federal initiative to manage national clinical trials aimed at developing new treatments for breathing disorders. The effort is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Network Management Core - or NEMO - will coordinate and support trials related to the Pulmonary Trials Cooperative (PTC), which will carry out multiple clinical studies on a variety of chronic lung conditions, including interstitial lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis and obstructive sleep apnea.

"The PTC program brings together expertise in lung disease research and treatment across the nation in one single, dynamic enterprise," said Tony Punturieri, M.D., Ph.D., program officer in the Division of Lung Diseases at NHLBI. "This novel structure should facilitate efforts to get tested clinical care to patients in dire need of new treatments across a broad spectrum of lung diseases."

Chronic lung diseases are some of the most common medical conditions in the world, with more than 15 million people in the U.S. suffering from COPD alone, a condition which is the third-leading cause of death nationwide, according to the American Lung Association.

The NEMO will be led by Stephen Wisniewski, Ph.D., epidemiology professor in Pitt Public Health, and Frank Sciurba, M.D., director of Pitt's Emphysema COPD Research Center in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine.

"Across the country, multiple clinical trials will be in operation to address the urgent need for new treatments and to test existing treatments for people with chronic lung conditions, all managed under one program," said Dr. Wisniewski, also Pitt's associate vice provost for planning. "This will create a massive amount of data and requires diligent coordination and collaboration among trial sites, which we at Pitt have extensive experience facilitating."

"Investigators in our pulmonary division have offered leadership in many clinical trials over the years and have successfully translated the latest scientific findings into improved patient care," said Dr. Sciurba, also an associate professor in Pitt's School of Medicine. "This expertise will be a great asset as we recruit and organize several dozen medical centers to work together to test new treatments for pulmonary patients."

The PTC has letters of support from over 100 clinical research programs nationwide with registries totaling 72,000 people.

Through the NEMO, Pitt will recruit and manage the clinical centers that will carry out specific trials awarded separately by NHLBI with cooperative agreement grant mechanisms. To improve efficiency and expedite the trials, the NEMO will develop and distribute study-specific manuals, train staff at the clinical centers, manage a bank of biospecimens, provide a secure Web portal for communication among researchers and coordinate meetings, among many other responsibilities.

Additional NEMO investigators include Maria Mori Brooks, Ph.D., Scott O'Neal, M.A., Heather Eng, Christina Ledezma, Ph.D., Kevin Gibson, M.D., Kathleen Lindell, Ph.D., R.N., Patrick Strollo, M.D., Daniel Buysse, M.D., Mark Gladwin, M.D., Michael Mathier, M.D., Alison Morris, M.D., M.S., Joseph Pilewski, M.D., Yingze Zhang, Ph.D., Joseph Leader, Ph.D., and Michael Becich, M.D., Ph.D., all of Pitt; Stephen Rennard, M.D., of the University of Nebraska Medical Center; Charlton Strange, M.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina; Naftali Kaminski, M.D., of Yale School of Medicine; and Rebecca Bascom, M.D., M.P.H., of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The NEMO is funded through NHLBI grant 1U01HL128954-01.

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About the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, founded in 1948 and now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, conducts research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world. Pitt Public Health is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health problems. For more information about Pitt Public Health, visit the school's Web site at http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings recently released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt ranked fifth among all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see http://www.medschool.pitt.edu.

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