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Research center will expand to Orlando campus

Duke Medical Center’s Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center is teaming up with the Burnham Institute for Medical Research to build a collaborative new research facility in Orlando, Fla.

An extension of Duke’s Stedman Center laboratory will be established at the Burnham Institute’s Lake Nona campus in Orlando next month. The grand opening is set for Oct. 8, and the new facility is expected to be fully operational by 2010, said Brett Wenner, a researcher at the Stedman Center Metabolomics Laboratory. The center’s extension is expected to hire its first personnel by November 2009, said Christopher Newgard, director of the Stedman Center.

“The opportunity to partner with the Burnham Institute makes sense because it pairs two strong research institutes within the Southeast,” Newgard said. “By working together, we feel we can expand our ability to do this very high tech science much faster than if either institution was trying to do it by themselves.”

Newgard said the Stedman Center’s progression in the research area of metabolomics is what caught the attention of the Burnham Institute. Metabolomics, the study of chemical products in the body, may give insights into chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular complications and cancer, said Robert Stevens, a senior scientist and technical director at the Stedman Center. This research, along with a friendship between Newgard and Dr. Daniel Kelly, scientific director of the Burnham Institute at Lake Nona, was the catalyst for collaboration between the institutions.

Stephen Gardell, director of translational research resources and adjunct associate professor at the Lake Nona campus, said he is excited about the way the institutes will complement each other.

“The field of metabolomics is very large and by collaborating, we will be able to identify the gaps within the field and then use resources to address those gaps,” Gardell said.

Newgard said he has hopes that other institutes, such as the National Institutes of Health, will be more eager to provide funding and support for research, as a result of the new partnership.

“It is going to be a place to come and collaborate to further the knowledge of metabolic regulatory mechanisms,” Newgard said.

The research agenda for the new laboratory is still in its developmental stages. In addition to studying metabolites, researchers at the new laboratory hope to develop new technological instruments in order to work with them more efficiently.

“The way to make breakthrough discoveries is to look at and obtain data that one would not ordinarily have,” Gardell said. He added that he hopes by acquiring these new sets of tools, both research institutions will gain a unique insight into complex biological problems.

In addition, the new laboratory may provide opportunities for members of the Duke community.

 “We will be able to develop programs where scholars, which would include post-doctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students and faculty, would be able to travel back and forth between the two Centers,” Newgard said.

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