Rutgers-led Team Pursues Innovative Healing for War Wounded

Rutgers-led Team Pursues Innovative Healing for War Wounded

U.S. Army funds new Institute of Regenerative Medicine with $85 million

A consortium spearheaded by Rutgers has
been awarded $42.5 million over five years to create one of two academic groups
that will form the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).

 The Rutgers-led collaboration will be headed by Joachim Kohn, Board of
Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Rutgers’ School of Arts
and Sciences, and George Muschler, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland
, Rutgers’ principal partner in this
undertaking. A second consortium will be managed by Wake
Forest University
Baptist Medical
and the University of Pittsburgh
with another $42.5 million in funding.

 The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), in
conjunction with the Office of Naval
, the National Institutes of Health, the Air Force Office of the
Surgeon General
and the Department of Veterans Affairs will fund the two


The use of
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq
and Afghanistan
has caused a marked increase in severe blast trauma, now responsible for
approximately 75 percent of all injuries, according to the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma. Better body armor, quicker
evacuation from the battlefield and advanced medical care have made it possible
for injured soldiers to survive in greater numbers than in the past. They face
the challenge of overcoming severe limb, head, face and burn injuries that can
take years to treat and usually result in significant lifelong impairment.

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey
A wounded soldier is unloaded from a U.S. Army UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter at the 47th Combat Support Hospital in Mosul, Iraq.
Evacuating wounded

The new
institute is a strong national effort to address the unprecedented challenges
of caring for men and women returning from Afghanistan
and Iraq
with multiple traumatic injuries. “Our foremost goal is to alleviate the human
suffering associated with debilitating blast injuries and to enable our injured
people to return to productive lives,” Kohn said.

AFIRM will develop new products and therapies for the repair of
battlefield injuries through the use of regenerative medicine. This innovative
approach employs
biological therapy, including stem cells and growth factors; tissue and
biomaterials engineering; and transplants to enable
the body to repair, replace, restore and regenerate damaged tissues and organs.

 The institute
also will dramatically accelerate the rate at which promising biomaterials as
well as cell-based and combined regenerative medicine technologies will be
converted into new therapies to restore lost tissue and lost function. These products and therapies also will serve civilian
trauma and burn patients.

will play a crucial role in developing new therapies for regenerating tissue
and healing large wounds. The Rutgers team, with its strength in biomaterials
science, has embarked on creating new methods to identify unique biomaterials
compositions tailored to support the growth of new nerves, blood vessels, skin,
bone or muscle. The team has pioneered the approach of creating libraries of
hundreds of new biomaterials allowing the researchers to discover the best
choices for specific medical indications.  Once identified, the new
biomaterials will be distributed to other AFIRM team members for the
development of new clinical applications.

 The Rutgers approach is based on using experimental screening
assays in combination with computational modeling. The Rutgers
group will work closely with its Massachusetts Institute of Technology partners
who are developing complementary methods of screening large biomaterials
libraries for specific properties.

 Rutgers research and
management activities associated with the institute will receive approximately
$1.7 million per year, supplemented over the first two years by $400,000 from
the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology to be matched with another
$400,000 by the university.

 “The Rutgers community welcomes the
opportunity to take a leadership role in this important pursuit,” said Rutgers
President Richard L. McCormick
. “What we do here will produce a durable and
adaptable resource for the development and advancement of regenerative
therapies for injured military personnel as well as civilian victims of

 “The Cleveland Clinic with Rutgers,
and our entire AFIRM team, is deeply committed to offering new recovery options
for the brave men and women who have served our country,” Muschler said. “Our
mission, through combined effort, is to translate opportunities that are now
available in regenerative biology, as rapidly as possible, into practical tools
that can be used on the front lines or here at home.”

 The Rutgers-led component of the institute will be based on a highly
integrated, open network of dedicated partners comprising 15 premier academic institutions and more than 20 leading

 In addition to
the Rutgers and the Wake Forest-based groups,
there will be a third component. The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research
in San Antonio, Texas, will work with the two academic
consortia to provide guidance on military medical needs and hosting trials of
new therapies.

Jersey is the ideal center for the AFIRM research and
development effort. We are the home of the global pharmaceutical industry, have
a strong concentration of medical device companies and are one of the first
states to promote and fund a broad spectrum of stem cell research initiatives,”
New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine wrote in a letter. “The conception of AFIRM as a
partnership between military and civilian academic institutions is a
groundbreaking idea for which I commend the USAMRMC.”

 Most of the
partners in the Rutgers-led consortium have been professional colleagues for
years with longstanding collaborations. The open network approach ensures that
the most qualified experts and performance sites, irrespective of their
institutional affiliation or geographic location, will be within reach. An
executive committee headed by Kohn and Muschler will direct the research
programs of the geographically dispersed network of leading academic research
scientists and clinicians, industrial scientists and business managers, and
military medical experts.

 The core
academic partners are: the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials at Rutgers
University, the National Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Cleveland
Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical
, Carnegie Mellon University, Stony Brook University, Dartmouth College,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard
Medical School
, the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University, University of
, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, University of
, University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University. These core
partners are supported by a large number of industrial collaborators and
participating health care companies that have expressed an interest in the
commercialization of new products and therapies emerging from institute’s
research program.

in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is America’s
eighth oldest institution of higher learning and one of the nation’s premier
public research universities.  Serving more than 50,000 students on
campuses in Camden, Newark
and New Brunswick, Rutgers
offers more than 280 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degree
programs. The university is home to 27 degree-granting schools and
colleges, and more than 150 specialized centers and institutes.

Media Contact: Joseph Blumberg
732-932-7084 x652