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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announces $5M TETF investment in UTHSC-H trauma research

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced on May 6 a $5 million investment through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston to launch a new trauma research center led by U.S. Army Surgeon Col. John Holcomb, M.D. The Center for Translational Injury Research (CeTIR) will open in September.

Injury is the leading cause of death between the ages of 1 and 44. Every year, injury accounts for 16,000 deaths in Texas, 160,000 deaths across the nation and 5 million deaths worldwide, the National Trauma Institute reports. We need better treatments for the injuredparticularly those with burns, bleeding and brain trauma, Dewhurst said. This new research center will build on cutting-edge research already underway at the UT Health Science Center at Houston and throughout the Texas Medical Center.

The $5 million TETF Research Superiority Award is part of a $200 million initiative created by the Texas Legislature at the request of Gov. Rick Perry to expedite new technology development and to recruit researchers. The Office of Technology Management at the UT Health Science at Houston will receive an additional $250,000 to support the award. In addition to the TETF's investment, the UT Health Science Center, the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System and the University of Texas System Medical Foundation have pledged a total of nearly $13 million to establish the CeTIR and attract a world-class team of experts in medical research and trauma care.

The UT Health Science Center is grateful to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and the Legislature for this generous investment in trauma research, which will lead to life-saving treatments, said James T. Willerson, M.D., president of the UT Health Science Center at Houston and president-elect of the Texas Heart Institute.

Holcombs laboratory will focus on new medical technologies based on the integration of biology and informatics to improve the diagnosis, care and survival of trauma victims. Any progress made in civilian trauma care has direct implications for the military and vice versa, Holcomb said.

The Texas Medical Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System are all aggressively pursuing trauma research, said Holcomb, who is retiring from the United States Army following a 27-year military career. Im proud to be a part of their efforts.

Since 2002, Holcomb has served as commander of the United States Armys Institute of Surgical Research at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, which cares for combat casualties and creates products for the treatment of injured soldiers. His contributions are in the areas of increased hemorrhage control through dressings, tourniquets and intravenous methods, as well as trauma informatics and systems.

The daunting statistics on trauma in Texas and the United States point to the fact that there is an unmet need for interventions that improve the outcomes of people with injury, Willerson said. There are presently limited treatment options for people with brain injuries.

The National Trauma Institute describes trauma as a $400 billion problem and reports there is no single center or institute devoted exclusively to trauma research at the National Institutes of Health. The amount of funding for injury is disproportionately low compared to other chronic diseases, Holcomb said.

Examples of projects that may be tackled at the Center for Translational Injury Research include studies on the impact of optimal methods of breathing support in the prehospital emergency environment, improving care of bleeding patients, developing new monitors so live-saving treatments can commence sooner and the possible use of regenerative medicine in skin replacement therapy. Much research will be conducted with Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center, a top trauma center and the home of the Life Flight aerial ambulance service.

The center will also build on existing research.

Researchers at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Childrens Memorial Hermann Hospital are in the midst of a unique clinical trial to gauge the safety and potential of treating children suffering traumatic brain injury with stem cells derived from their own bone marrow. Investigators include Charles Cox Jr., M.D., The Children's Fund Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the UT Medical School at Houston, and James Baumgartner, M.D., a research collaborator at the UT Medical School at Houston. Both are members of the medical staff at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center.

Trauma research and trauma medicine have not been major areas of interest to the components of the health care industry that typically invest in research, said Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick. Many of the significant advances in trauma care have been developed by the military for the care of wounded soldiers. We now have an opportunity to build on these advances in military medicine by developing ways to use them in the management of trauma in the civilian population.

We are bringing in an outstanding clinician and translational scientist with innovative approaches to injury treatment, said Peter Davies, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of research at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. He will be building on his work with military patientsparticularly burn victims.

Holcomb said the UT Health Science Center at Houston is well positioned to translate scientific discoveries into patient care with the Clinical and Translational Sciences Center (CCTS) funded by the National Institutes of Healths Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs).

Translational science means taking research from the laboratory and early clinical trials and doing high-quality studies to take that last step that proves or disproves the concept, Holcomb said.

Davies said Holcomb will be working closely with the informatics experts at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston (SHIS) to develop intelligent trauma management systems that will provide clinicians with real time information on changes in critically injured patients.

Thrice recognized by the U.S. Armys Greatest Invention Program, Holcomb was honored for the combat application tourniquet, the Chitosan Hemostatic Dressing and the Damage Control Resuscitation Concept. He received his undergraduate degree at Centenary College and medical degree from the University of Arkansas Medical School, Little Rock. He served as a surgical critical care fellow at the UT Medical School at Houston from 2001-2002.

Holcombs wife, Kelly Wirfel, is also a doctor of medicine and graduated from the UT Medical School Endocrinology Fellowship at Houston. The couple has a 7-year-old son, Ian, and 5-year-old daughter, Ryan.


Contact: Robert Cahill
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

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