When the Brigham Building for the Future opens in fall 2016, it will be a hub for state-of-the-art labs, outpatient clinical space and advanced imaging facilities. It will also be home to researchers and clinicians from across many disciplines with a shared vision for collaboration, acceleration and translation of laboratory discoveries into novel treatments for patients. In the months leading up to the BBF’s opening, this series will feature several major research areas that will be brought together in the new space.
Bruce Levy, MD, and Caroline Owen, MD, PhD, of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division, and their teams are excited to embark on a new adventure—one that’s filled with cardboard moving boxes, opportunities for increased collaboration and a shorter commute to BWH’s main campus.
Later this year, Levy, division chief, and Owen, a senior molecular biologist in the division, will be moving their labs from the Harvard Institutes of Medicine (HIM) building, located on Blackfan Circle, about a half a mile down the road to the Brigham Building for the Future (BBF).
“It will be nice to be back home again,” Levy said. “While our research focuses on the lungs, we know that many of our neighbors in the BBF and in the Lung Research Center at the Brigham Research Institute have a shared interest in our studies, which is exciting to us.”
Collaboration is Key
Levy’s and Owen’s teams are looking forward to the close proximity to BWH’s main campus for translational research and patient care, the ability to have more cross-disciplinary interactions with other labs and utilization of the advanced structural and functional imaging resources in the BBF.
Levy, a physician scientist who also co-directs the Lung Center and Lung Research Center at BWH along with Raphael Bueno, MD, chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery, and cares for patients with severe asthma and related conditions in BWH’s Center for Chest Diseases, stressed that the resources in the BBF and the type of collaboration it accelerates will benefit staff and research teams throughout the campus, not just those who will be working in the physical space.
The Levy laboratory focuses on how the body resolves injury to the lungs due to infection and inflammation. The lab’s overall mission is to identify novel pathways and cellular targets that promote resolution of pulmonary inflammation or injury and to determine roles for naturally-derived, specialized pro-resolving mediators in lung health and disease as well as their potential as templates for rational new drug design.
This research is broadly relevant in health care because regulation of an inflammatory response applies to diseases and conditions beyond the lungs, Levy explained, including atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, neuro-inflammatory diseases, including multiple sclerosis and cognitive disorders and even some forms of cancer.
“This makes collaboration with other labs in different specialties extremely important,” Levy said.
Owen and her team of researchers in her lab study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acute lung injury, asthma, interstitial lung diseases and bacterial and viral lung infections, including influenza virus infections. The team is researching the mechanisms by which proteolytic enzymes (proteinases) and novel anti-inflammatory and pro-repair processes contribute to these lung diseases. The lab is also testing the efficacy of new therapeutics in pre-clinical animal models of these diseases and in randomized clinical trials.
Owen said that moving to the BBF is an exciting opportunity to work in a new state-of-the art building that includes infrastructure designed for her lab’s exact needs.
“Our new space in the BBF will allow us to expand our research capabilities,” Owen said. “There’s a plan for where every piece of our equipment will go, and we’ve optimized the space, both our administrative offices and lab area, to be very comfortable.”
Owen and her colleagues are also looking forward to cutting their commuting time from HIM to BWH in half. Owen and her colleagues travel to BWH many times a week for seminars and research-related work in the Thorn building, the Ingram Library, Carrie Hall and the Shapiro Building and agree that a shorter commute to BWH will help facilitate and strengthen collaborations and increase lab efficiency.
Raja-Elie Abdulnour, MD, a pulmonary and critical care medicine physician scientist who cares for patients in BWH’s Medical Intensive Care Unit and at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), conducts research at HIM with Levy. He said that being in close proximity to BWH and DFCI is a huge advantage because it means that he will be closer to his patients and be able to expand on opportunities for collaboration.
“Bringing so many researchers and clinicians together in one space is going to be extremely effective,” Abdulnour said. “The BBF is going to be a cutting-edge incubator to producing more effective partnerships and research projects.”
Also working with Levy is Nandini Krishnamoorthy, PhD, an instructor of Medicine in the Levy laboratory, whose research is focused on understanding how cells of innate and adaptive immune system interact with each other in the setting of asthma and viral infections.
Krishnamoorthy is looking forward to the move into the BBF, as the building will be a great place for scientists and physicians from different specialties to work together more often.
“It’s fantastic that the building is designed to foster multi-disciplinary cutting-edge research,” she said. “I can’t wait to continue my research in this new environment.”