When most people think of medical research, they imagine a major scientific hub far away from their community and their daily lives. In June 2011, the Western Connecticut Health Network Biomedical Research Institute opened on West Street in Danbury – bringing the largest open-bench laboratory of its kind in the country to our own backyard.
The $5 million, 17,000-square-foot laboratory – made possible by a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor, a $500,000 gift from Rudy and Sally Ruggles of Ridgefield, and community contributions – provides the network with a unique opportunity to be part of some of the most groundbreaking research in the world.
The facility allows physician scientists to collaborate with clinical and academic physicians under one roof, providing access to Danbury and New Milford hospitals and their patients, and to share information and educate physicians about new developments in healthcare.
Ramin Ahmadi, MD, Chair of Medical Education and Research at Danbury Hospital, said the lab's state-of-the-art technology is attracting top physicians and researchers who are interested in scientific and clinical work. Currently, more than 70 percent of the work at the lab is cancer research, Shohreh Shahabi, MD, Chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, and of the Institute's Reproductive Tumor Biology Research Laboratory, oversees more than 70 percent of the work at the lab, dedicated to cancer research. This significant work in women's health has been accomplished under her leadership and directorship of Cristiano Ferlini, MD, PhD, an internationally known cancer researcher from Italy. They are working to identify gynecological cancer biomarkers, which could speed the development of new treatment options, including more effective drugs with fewer side effects and lower toxicity.
Working with a next generation nanofluidic genetic analyzer and ahigh-precision functional proteomic platform, the team is discovering new factors capable to identify aggressive cancer. These patients are featured by specific protein-to-protein interactions – the basis of every biological function – and this knowledge could be useful to target them with more effective treatments. The Research Institute also houses the Lyme Disease Registry to study and document area residents with the disease, and will host advanced research into cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. Through the training of future health professionals, physicians and medical scientists, the Institute will advance the quality of care delivered to our greater community, both regionally and globally.