Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Delaware Cardiovascular Research Center Inauguration
Delaware Biotechnology Institute
November 22, 2010

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It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural symposium of the Delaware Cardiovascular Research Center, and to celebrate the launch of this critical component of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance. Since we announced the Alliance’s formation in March 2009, we’ve seen the enormous power of collaboration.

With our four partner institutions working together, our scope, our strength, and our impact aren’t merely amplified by a factor of four. Our work is exponentially greater. Together, we have the capacity for breakthrough biomedical research and biotech development; high-quality health sciences education; and good healthcare policy and delivery.

This inauguration is the latest milestone over nearly two years that have seen many of them—important clinical partnerships and conferences; joint research; innovative teaching and degree collaborations. Celebrating this milestone is especially gratifying, as there is an urgent need—in Delaware and across the U.S.—to reduce the incidence and the effects of cardiovascular disease; to understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for it; and to develop new and better approaches for treatment and prevention.

Before I get into our hopes for the Delaware Cardiovascular Research Center, I want to thank some of the many people responsible for its existence today.

Clearly, this Center is a priority of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, and I thank the leadership of all four partner institutions for placing cardiovascular research among their priorities and putting sufficient resources behind it.

I thank the Center’s Steering Committee for formulating a bold vision of what we can accomplish here, and for driving all our practical efforts toward that vision.

  • Doug Doren is associate dean of Research in the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and Sciences;
  • William Weintraub is director of Outcomes Research at Christiana Care;
  • Samuel Gidding is division chief of Cardiology at Nemours Cardiac Center; and
  • Walter Koch is director of the Center for Translational Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University.

The final member of this Steering Committee is Ulhas Naik, who will serve as the Center’s founding director. Dr. Naik is a professor in the University of Delaware’s Department of Biological Sciences. He came to UD in 1998 full of energy and with big plans to develop cardiovascular research in Delaware.

Early on, he formed important internal and external research collaborations that provide a basis for the efforts we undertake today. His groundbreaking work and close connections make him uniquely well-suited for this directorship, and we’re excited and grateful that he’s taken the position on. I know he and the entire Steering Committee look forward to gathering together the best cardiac doctors and scientists to generate innovative cardiovascular research and transform the treatment we provide patients.

I also want to acknowledge our keynote speaker today. Mark Ginsberg is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and he’ll be talking about cell adhesion in vascular biology. I thank Dr. Ginsberg—and all of today’s presenters—for sharing their time and expertise.

Importance of CDRC
The launch of this Center is important for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it’s important to the scores of people who suffer from cardiovascular disease and the families of those who die each year because of it. More than one-third of all mortalities in the U.S. are attributed to cardiovascular disease, and Americans spend $283 billion annually for cardiovascular-related health care.

With 80 million patients treated each year—with an aging population and rapidly rising healthcare costs—preventing and better treating this disease has to be at the top of this nation’s health agenda. We have the expertise assembled here to help in this mission; we have competitive capacity for significant federal and private research funding; and we have a strong commitment among the state’s leaders and top health experts to stop Delaware’s #1 killer.

This Center is vitally important to the University of Delaware, as well. In UD’s strategic plan, our Path to Prominence, we pledge to assume an international position as a premier research University. We say we have the opportunity and the obligation to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, and to marshal that knowledge for the benefit of humanity. And we go on to say how we plan to do that:

  • That we’ll capitalize on our multidisciplinary strengths to establish well-resourced interdisciplinary research centers and degree programs, as well as knowledge-based partnerships.
  • That we’ll create new signature academic assets that bring together the intellectual, physical, financial, and human resources that are fundamental to discovery and innovation.

I look around this room, and I see those resources. I see the intellectual and capital assets that will put us on the path to leadership and breed transformational change in the way we prevent, detect, track, and treat this deadly disease. Together, we have the expertise, the core facilities, and the multidisciplinary approach we need to revolutionize basic and translational research and adequately scale education and clinical programs. And this is how you build prominence—on the back of really good science and exceptional education. This is what we’ve signed up for.

Delaware’s signed up for it, too. The state is serious about enhancing its biomedical research capability and enlarging its pipeline of highly trained health professionals.

This Center is key to both of these goals. Greater Philadelphia has more than 400 locally based life sciences companies; nearly 56,000 core, highly skilled life sciences employees; and 310,000 support workers. Life sciences is the region’s #1 employer.

And it’s not just a robust part of our economy. Nationwide, the bioscience industry—healthcare, biotechnology, and its affiliated areas—is among the fastest growing economic sectors. It’s one of the most resilient, too. Healthcare has weathered this recession better than just about anything else. We have a tremendous opportunity for focus and growth here.

If we follow through on our core plans—if we enlarge our R&D capabilities and our corps of highly qualified health personnel; if we bring new research ideas from bench to bedside—from lab to marketplace—we’ll not only benefit the patients who suffer from cardiovascular disease; we’ll not only improve healthcare delivery and outcomes … we’ll stimulate perhaps unprecedented economic growth. And so we’ll build not only prominence—but prosperity, as well.

I thank you all for joining us in this symposium and for taking part in the Center’s long-awaited inauguration. There are still a few people after me to share with you what this Center means to them and to their work. So I’ll wish you a productive day and some long-lasting collaborations that yield life-changing benefits.

Thank you.

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