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WVU Announces Creation of Multimillion Dollar Pediatric Research Institute

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Nov. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- West Virginia University announced today the creation of the multimillion dollar WVU Pediatric Research Institute. The institute builds on a strong history of pediatric research at WVU.

"We are exhilarated to be able to take our research to the next level to serve the needs of children throughout West Virginia," said Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at WVU Children's Hospital. "Whenever we invest in children, we invest in our future."

Funding for the WVU Pediatric Research Institute comes from two sources: a generous bequest from a former WVU physician and unclaimed settlement money from a class action lawsuit.

Through a bequest from the late James H. Walker, M.D., former WVU physician and professor on the Charleston campus, $6.378 million will go toward the institute and the creation of the James H. Walker Chair in Pediatric Cardiology.

"My father was very passionate about WVU. He became passionate about education and about children with cardiac disease," Rome Walker, M.D., of Roanoke, Va., said of his late father. "Medicine was his whole life. He continued to practice until the day he was in the car accident and died. He was actually traveling from one clinic to another. To endow a chair really signifies his true passion for medicine."

WVU pediatric cardiologist William A. Neal, M.D. is the inaugural recipient of the Walker Chair.

In addition, the institute will receive $5.67 million from unclaimed settlement money in a class action lawsuit involving Warner-Lambert Co. and Parke-Davis, creators of the diabetes drug Rezulin. In September, Raleigh County Circuit Judge John Hutchison approved the payment to WVU.

Dr. Piedimonte said the money would be used primarily to research a link between obesity, diabetes and asthma in West Virginia's children. The Pediatric Research Institute will hire research scholars, who along with the current team of researchers, will continue to work to solve these problems.

"This money allows us to accomplish something we have been aiming at for a long time -- creating a centralized research center where interaction among the varied research teams can be encouraged and supported," Piedimonte said.

Currently, about 60 percent of faculty members in the Department of Pediatrics are actively engaged in research, with more than 16,500 square feet of space within the Department of Pediatrics dedicated to research.

Dollars invested in research on pediatric issues at WVU has doubled in the past two years, jumping from almost $3 million in 2006 to more than $6 million in 2008.

The institute will occupy two floors of an existing classroom and laboratory building on the north side of the Health Sciences Campus, beginning in 2009.

This news release was issued on behalf of Newswise(TM). For more information, visit

SOURCE West Virginia University Health Sciences Center
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