Philanthropic Gift Bolsters Danbury Hospital Biomedical Research Institute
The Danbury Hospital Biomedical Research Institute has received a gift of $350,000 from Rudy and Sara Ruggles of Ridgefield to acquire a state-of-the-art, custom-designed proteomics platform that will provide the foundation for molecular research well into the future.
The gift comes just months after the opening of the 17,000-square-foot facility at 131 West St. in Danbury under the leadership of world renowned physician scientists. The goal of the laboratory is to translate research findings to patients at the bedside as soon as possible.
“Thanks to community support, Danbury Hospital has established a research institute that enables us to remain on the forefront of the latest treatment protocols and provide patients in Connecticut and New York with the highest level of evidence-based care available,” said John Murphy, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western Connecticut Healthcare.
“This gift allows us the hospital to build a foundation to advance molecular science research,” said Shohreh Shahabi, MD, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Danbury Hospital. Establishing a research center was a top priority for Shahabi, a renowned physician scientist who joined the hospital last year. “Our goal is to develop the protocols necessary to bring clinical research finding to patients at the bedside,” she said.
‘A piece of Harvard in downtown Danbury’
For Institute Director Cristiano Ferlini, MD, PhD, the opening of the research facility “marks the start of a novel frontier for drug discovery.” He believes the development of “novel drugs” in the laboratory could reach patients in clinical settings within five years, while the development of “biomarkers” could help clinicians to more efficiently select current therapies. Although the laboratory will initially focus on cancer, research findings will have far reaching implications in every medical field, including cardiovascular, autoimmune, infectious diseases and more.
“This generous gift allows our researchers to have the same capabilities and resources you would normally find in a large academic institution,” said Ramin Ahmadi, MD, Director of Medical Education and Research at Danbury Hospital. “It is unprecedented to see this level of biomedical research in a community setting. It’s like taking a piece of Harvard, Johns Hopkins or Yale and planting it right in the middle of downtown Danbury.”
A worthwhile investment
As a trained physicist, Ruggles said he and his wife believed the laboratory was a “worthy project to support” after learning of Dr. Murphy’s plans to “incorporate research into the hospital’s mission” and meeting the physician scientists leading the research. Ruggles is a former member of the Danbury Hospital Development Fund and the hospital’s Board of Directors. He was recently appointed chairman of the newly formed Danbury Hospital Research Advisory Committee and is a member of the “Campaign Cabinet” to raise funds for the hospital.
“I was delighted to learn that Danbury Hospital was pursing basic scientific research,” said Ruggles. “The funds give Danbury Hospital the unique capability to make strides in molecular research and broaden the scope of patient care by putting research findings into clinical practice. The laboratory is already producing useful results in the short time it has been opened.”
Ruggles said he was “most impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the laboratory’s founders” – Dr. Shahabi and Dr. Ferlini. A researcher and author known worldwide for his groundbreaking basic research in gynecologic oncology, Dr. Ferlini was working in Italy before joining Danbury Hospital. Dr. Shahabi is a renowned researcher, author and surgeon also specializing in gynecological oncology. The two are working together in the Reproductive Tumor Biology Research Laboratory at the Institute.
A new frontier of drug discovery
“The gift will pay for equipment and technology to create an innovative functional proteomic platform to conduct molecular research that examines the structure, function and complexities of protein-protein interactions,” said Dr. Ferlini.
Current technology can only screen 20 percent of compounds for “potential drug targets.” The new proteomic platform will be able to screen the other 80 percent. “We will begin by screening thousands of compounds for their ability to inhibit protein-protein interactions associated with the most aggressive tumors in several tissues, including ovary, colon, prostate and lung,” he said.
The potential patient benefits of this research are plentiful, including the development of:
- New drugs and less-toxic therapies that target cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.
- More effective personalized drugs based on an individual’s unique proteomic expression.
- New diagnostic techniques using protein biomarkers to identify people who are at risk or who are likely to resist certain treatment regimens.
Enhancing collaborative research efforts
All researchers at the Institute will have access to the novel proteomic platform. “We are creating a modern facility that will house dozens of basic science researchers in a myriad of fields,” said Catherine Halkett, President of the Danbury Hospital Development Fund. “Danbury Hospital wants to promote a collaborative approach where researchers share resources and expertise across institutional and disciplinary lines.”
Philanthropic support sustains facility
The Ruggles gift is the latest contribution from people wishing to support the hospital’s research initiatives. “The Institute is possible thanks to donors like the Ruggles,” said Halkett. “We are extremely grateful for their generosity and understanding of the important role of basic scientific research in helping to maintain the wellbeing of our community.”
About Danbury Hospital
Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders, radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve on the faculty of the nation’s finest medical centers offering a higher level of experience.
About the Development Fund
The Danbury Hospital Development Fund (DHDF) plays an important role in ensuring that Danbury Hospital has sufficient resources to carry out its mission. Philanthropic support enables the Hospital to purchase much needed capital equipment, build state-of-the-art facilities, launch innovative healthcare and medical programs, and attract the highest quality physicians and other health professionals.
Since 1976, the Danbury Hospital Development Fund has helped to secure, manage, and distribute the charitable gifts that support the hospital's mission. The Development Fund is the foundation for Danbury Hospital to transform lives and make a difference.