Archive for May, 2009

Dr. Ikezu discovery nets large venture capital investment

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations
A recently discovered enzyme with big implications in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders has led to the largest acquisition of venture capital funds obtained to date by UNeMed Corporation and UNMC. 

NuMedix Health Group, a venture capital firm in Sydney, Australia, has invested about $2 million in the research of Tsuneya Ikezu, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience at UNMC.


The money will help further Dr. Ikezu’s work to find a compound to block the newly-discovered enzyme’s function and subsequently prevent the damaging effects of the enzyme’s overactivity — which contributes to the onset of dementia.


“The University of Nebraska Medical Center has an international reputation in producing quality research and Dr. Ikezu has done an impressive amount of research in this particular area,” said Michael Issakidis, NuMedix managing director. “We hope that by our investments, we can assist hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families in achieving a better quality of life.”


UNeMed first filed a patent application on this enzyme when Dr. Ikezu discovered it in 2002 and just received word that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office expects the patent to issue later this summer.


“The reward of UNeMed and Dr. Ikezu’s diligence over the past six years is paying large dividends,” said Michael Dixon, Ph.D., president of UNeMed. “Everything has come together nicely and we are pleased to be able to attract additional research money to this valuable research as well as establish a partner to help translate the results of this research into the clinic.”


Enzyme does damage in mouse models


Dr. Ikezu’s lab developed a transgenic mouse model to show that the enzyme — known as tau-tubulin kinase1 (TTBK1) — induces memory impairment.


The study in the mouse model was published in the December Journal of Neuroscience and revealed that TTBK1 is a potential therapeutic target for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.


“We are all excited about the publication and funding for initiating the drug screening program to regulate this enzyme activity in brain,” Dr. Ikezu said.


Company takes notice of Dr. Ikezu’s work


Nearly a year ago, UNeMed was approached by Neumedix in regards to Dr. Ikezu’s work. Due to the complex nature of the project, negotiations and plans took nearly several months to complete and work began April 1.


The research will take place over the next four years at which time, it is anticipated that it will be ready for clinical trials.


Dr. Ikezu is optimistic a compound can be identified through the drug discovery endeavor.


“I really appreciate all the lab members contributing to this project, support from department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, and UNeMed for identifying the sponsorship,” Dr. Ikezu said. 


Date Published: Friday, May 29, 2009

Dr. Campbell receives international award for health records efforts

by Tom O’Connor, UNMC public relations

A leader in the development of a compatible worldwide system for electronic health records, UNMC’s James Campbell, M.D., has earned a prestigious international award for his pioneering work. 

Dr. Campbell, who has devoted nearly 30 years to development of an electronic health record system, received the first-ever Award for Excellence from the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO), a non-profit association in Denmark.


IHTSDO evolved from a project that originated in the United States known as SNOMED CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine–Clinical Terms). For years, Dr. Campbell was a proponent for the use of SNOMED CT in clinical settings primarily in the United States but also around the world.


More about Dr. Campbell

Hometown: Geneva, N.Y.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in physics, University of Rochester, (N.Y.); medical degree, UNMC, 1976

Training: Internal medicine residency and fellowship, UNMC

Faculty positions: Internal medicine instructor, 1980-1981; assistant professor, 1981-1990; associate professor, 1990-2000; professor, 2000-present.

Other positions: Medical director for clinical information systems development for UNMC’s hospital partner, The Nebraska Medical Center, 1998-present.


“There have been many barriers to making electronic health records a reality,” Dr. Campbell said. “With the free enterprise system, there are lots of different vendors who have the expertise. We needed to develop an infrastructure, and that’s where SNOMED CT comes in. It allowed us to standardize the various components of the medical record.”


 President Barack Obama has made electronic health records a priority in his administration, Dr. Campbell said.


“This is a critical element under President Obama’s economic stimulus package,” he said. “He has created incentives to encourage health care providers to get this done in the next two to three years. This has created a sense of urgency among providers.”


Dr. Campbell received the award at a gala conference dinner in Helsingor, Denmark, on March 31-April 1.


SNOMED CT has become an international operation, including foreign countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Lithuania and Sweden.


 The Award of Excellence is given for outstanding contributions to the improvement of SNOMED CT and/or its successful implementation in any aspect of health and social care. IHTSDO officials said Dr. Campbell was recognized for volunteering hundreds of hours of his time to participate in weekly conference calls, provide support for document development, and schedule global face-to-face meetings.


“Since his innovative introduction of the electronic medical record at UNMC in the early 1980s, Jim has positioned UNMC to be a true leader in this area at both the national and international level.”

Lynell Klassen, M.D


In addition to his international work in standardizing electronic health records, Dr. Campbell also has been active in the electronic health information initiative in Nebraska. His work has earned the attention of his UNMC peers.

“Dr. Campbell has been a pioneer in the development and use of the electronic medical record,” said Lynell Klassen, M.D., professor and chairman of the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine. “Since his innovative introduction of the electronic medical record at UNMC in the early 1980s, Jim has positioned UNMC to be a true leader in this area at both the national and international level. His activities benefit our patients, our providers and the entire state on a daily basis.”


Date Published: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May 2009-Dr. Fayad named AHA Physician of the Year

Story contributed by The American Heart Association

Pierre Fayad, M.D., Reynolds Centennial Professor and chairman in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences, has been named the American Heart Association Physician of the Year.


Dr. Fayad — who also is director of the stroke center at UNMC’s hospital partner, The Nebraska Medical Center — received the award during a ceremony in Washington on Monday.


The award is conferred annually upon the practicing physician who has rendered “outstanding contributions” toward accomplishing the American Heart Association mission. Dr. Fayad was honored for being a pioneer and leader in numerous initiatives to improve the health of his community, especially in the area of stroke.


“This is a wonderful honor for one of our truly outstanding physicians,” said John Gollan, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the College of Medicine. “Dr. Fayad’s work in the field of stroke certainly merits this national recognition.


“This is excellent news for Dr. Fayad, the College of Medicine and UNMC as a whole.”


As stroke center director, Dr. Fayad established and now leads a stand-alone outpatient neurological clinic that received more than 7,000 patient visits in 2008. He also oversees a multidisciplinary “Stroke Code Team” that is responsible for the care of patients with acute stroke.


Countless patients have benefited from Dr. Fayad’s neurological expertise, including Lenice Hogan of Omaha.


“I have a complicated medical history and every time I was in the hospital I was told something different and would leave with no idea what the problem was or where to turn,” she said. “From the moment I met Dr. Fayad, I felt absolutely at ease. He took my records and spent a month researching other patients in the world with my condition — he found three. I’m not scared of what lies ahead because I know he’s on top of everything.”


Brenda Barry of Woodbine, Iowa, credited Dr. Fayad with saving her husband Lynn’s life.


“My husband had been having a series of mini strokes for a few weeks,” Barry said. “They would hit him for a few minutes and then he would go about his day like nothing had happened. We knew it wasn’t normal, but it was easy to let it go.”


Until they met with Dr. Fayad.


“In our initial appointment with Dr. Fayad, he was very thorough and quickly diagnosed the seriousness of the situation,” Barry said. “As far as we’re concerned, he saved my husband from having a massive stroke that could have paralyzed or killed him. Lynn is healthier than he has been in a decade or longer.”


Under Dr. Fayad’s leadership, the medical center’s stroke center became the first in Nebraska to be certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission.


In 2008, The Nebraska Medical Center was recognized with the Gold Achievement Award of the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke program, which recognizes 24 consecutive months of providing care that meets or exceeds stroke treatment guidelines set by the association.


Stewart Becker of Omaha suffered a stroke while on a skiing vacation in Colorado. After a week in a Denver hospital, he came home to Omaha and met with Dr. Fayad.


“The perception was that in the middle of the country I wouldn’t have the resources I needed (as a stroke survivor),” Becker said. “In Dr. Fayad, I’ve got an individual with a great reputation with a great institution, and I can get as good of care right in my home city as I could get anywhere.”


Dr. Fayad currently chairs the Advisory Committee of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association. He is also a member of the association’s International Stroke Conference Program Committee and National Science Advisory & Coordinating Committee.