$10 million gift funds innovative predictive health study

Long-term predictive health study dedicated to building healthier communities nationwide

INDIANAPOLIS -- A $10 million gift from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation Inc. to BioCrossroads will help Indiana University School of Medicine and Regenstrief Institute Inc. researchers predict the future health of Hoosiers.

That generosity and an additional gift of $500,000 from the Guidant Foundation will create a long-term health study led by scientists at the IU School of Medicine and the Regenstrief Institute, Inc. and colleagues. Together the gifts will establish the Fairbanks Institute, a long-term, predictive health study dedicated to building healthier communities nationwide.

"Indiana residents will be the beneficiaries of this collaborative venture to improve health and provide physicians nationwide with a better understanding of how to prevent disease through positive interventions," said Douglas K. Miller, M.D., principal investigator of the Fairbanks Institute and the Richard M. Fairbanks Professor in Aging Research at the IU School of Medicine. "The institute will put Indiana on the map as a national leader of studies to predict health outcomes and to design personal, health system and community interventions to prevent the common diseases that result in excess disability with aging. To achieve this goal, we are designing a collaborative study that brings together expertise in population health, biologics (biological information in blood) and medical informatics. "

The burden of chronic illnesses among the aging population already is a key interest for both IU medical school and Regenstrief researchers. This initiative will underscore the importance of their work. The initial phase of this effort will be to look at risk factors that can predict cardiovascular disease. IU/Krannert Institute cardiologist Keith L. March, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine and the Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation Professor in Vascular Biology Research, will lead the biologics core efforts of this innovative cardiovascular research project.

"Cardiovascular disease is the single largest killer in the United States," said Dr. March. "We need to better understand who is at risk for this disease and how to reduce that risk. This institute should provide valuable information and a unique window into the future health of Americans because we are studying, in parallel, genes, proteins and characteristics of repair cells, as well as individual health behaviors and how all these factors interact to contribute to each individualâ€TMs cardiovascular health or disease over time."

Volunteers for the study initially will be sought among people preparing to undergo heart catheterizations at the Clarian Cardiovascular Center, but the study will eventually expand to a wider population of participants. Calling the study "the next generation of cardiac research," Dr. March said the results should identify sets of markers (signatures) that are predictive for heart disease, and help us understand how to lower risk.

Volunteers will be monitored over many years to understand how their blood vessel status and heart health change over time. Such longitudinal data can help researchers understand biological compensation â€" the ability of some individuals to overcome, while others succumb to the same risk factors. Integrating detailed social and behavioral information with the biological factors will help researchers answer the questions about how genes and the environment interact to raise or lower the risk of disease.

"For example, biological data may enable researchers to understand how healthy behaviors, such as exercise, change the cardiovascular system at the level of proteins, cells and cell structures," said Dr. March.

Initially, 1,000 participants will be enrolled in the study and researchers will collect information on their lifestyle behavior over a period of years. Biological data from blood analysis will be collected on a group of those volunteers and their long-term health also will be monitored closely. The first participants will be enrolled in the fall of 2006 and enrollment is anticipated to continue for several years.

Fairbanks Institute is the result of a far-sighted collaboration between philanthropy, business development and medical research. The venture capitalizes on the unique strengths of BioCrossroads; Regenstrief Institute, international leaders in medical informatics, health services and aging research; and the IU School of Medicine with its expertise in life sciences research.

Add to that, the diverse Marion County population, which is representative of the national census, and the plan emerged for a study that could affect the health of future generations by identifying genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors placing people at risk for age-related illnesses. Health information exchange networks already in place in central Indiana will make it possible for the researchers to match biologic and lifestyle data to health information collected as part of regular medical care.

Clement J. McDonald, M.D., IU Distinguished Professor, director and research scientist at Regenstrief Institute and the Regenstrief Professor of Medical Informatics, will lead the informatics core of the Fairbanks Institute.

"Using the Indiana Network for Patient Care database, we will have the capacity to monitor, with the appropriate permissions, when the volunteers experience a critical illness, learn how individual risk translates into medical events, and how health-care providers deliver care for these problems," said Dr. McDonald.

Other IU faculty directing research cores of the Fairbanks Institute are Christopher Callahan, M.D., the Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Professor in Aging and founding director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research (communications); Daniel O. Clark, Ph.D., research scientist at Regenstrief, associate professor of medicine and scientist at the IU Center for Aging Research (epidemiology); and Siu L. Hui, Ph.D, research scientist at Regenstrief, director of biostatistics at the IU Center for Aging Research and professor of medicine at IU (data integration and statistics). An external scientific advisory panel will be named later this year. The gift is the largest one ever made by the Fairbanks Foundation.

This study builds on the Framingham Heart Study, the Women'TMs Health Initiative, the Nurses'TM Health Study and other well-recognized studies by starting with a more diverse population, by integrating data across biologics (taken from the blood samples), lifestyle behaviors, medical histories, community resources and health-care utilization. The study will store these data in highly secure systems that also will support future research.

Indiana residents rank high on national scales for risky behavior that are known to lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. Indiana ranks fourth in the nation for its rate of obesity and sixth for prevalence of smokers. It must improve the health of individuals and of communities to realize future growth and development.

Aging well can be life'TMs best revenge, and the Fairbanks Institute wants to make that type of revenge possible for all Americans.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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