Translating Discovery Into Practical Applications

Wednesday, September 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Fred Sanfilippo, M.D., Ph.D.,
Senior Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences; Dean College of
Medicine and Public Heath, Ohio State University; and CEO, Ohio State University
Medical Center.

Editor: Please tell us about how the university's facilities are being
expanded to accelerate the translation of discovery into practical applications.

Sanfilippo: When I arrived at Ohio State University, one of
my first duties was to do the ribbon cutting of the Davis Heart and Lung
Research Institute, which is a self-contained research building connected to our
main hospital. Last month we opened our new state of the art $88 million Ross
Heart Hospital, designed to facilitate clinical research by it's proximity to
the Davis HLRI. The university's commitment to advancing medical research has
continued most recently with the groundbreaking for our new biomedical research
tower. At a cost of $152 million, the tower will double the amount of research
space we have to 400,000 square feet and will provide a home to 500 scientists
doing research in a wide variety of areas.

We have also begun construction of a research magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) facility through a $17 million state grant that will combine human and
animal model studies. Most recently we have begun site and design planning for a
$350-400 million expansion of our cancer program, specifically focused on
integrating clinical and research facilities to accelerate our translational
research in cancer.

Editor: How does technology accelerate the translation of discovery into
practical applications to improve public health and medical care?

Sanfilippo: Technology supports Ohio State University's
medical center in all its mission areas to create the future of medicine. An
important part of our agenda is organizing our research, education and
healthcare delivery enterprises around a patient-driven focus in every possible
way -which is greatly facilitated through advances in communications and
information technology.

Editor: Please give us some examples of the technology advances that are
improving delivery of patient care.

Sanfilippo: As we focus on the future of medicine, we see
many technology advances helping us to get there quickly. For example, we no
longer use x-ray film at OSU; everything in radiology is now digitized. This
allows physicians to review image findings in their offices, at a hospital or
wherever they may be. Likewise, the laboratories at OSU are completely automated
and roboticized so that every lab test we do is essentially available as a
"stat" order.

Our information system hosts a tremendous number of physician-support tools.
Developed with our medical staff, they help to standardize care and include
important safety measures. Advances in our computerized order entry system have
had a tremendous impact, as has our computerized patient record. Other
technology advances have enabled us to develop a system for sharing detailed and
complete information with community physicians who refer patients to us and get
them back.

Currently we are moving through a detailed health-risk assessment of the
segment of our patient base that includes university employees and others whose
healthcare we have managed directly. In addition, some specific applications of
technology that have directly advanced patient care include robotic surgery,
MRI, and various minimally invasive procedures.

As an academic medical center, it's also important to note that we are
supporting our students, faculty and other members of our research community
through the conversion of our library into a modern "Center for Knowledge
Management."

Editor: What legal issues need to be addressed to accelerate the
translation of discovery into practical applications?

Sanfilippo: Only recently has the state of Ohio passed
legislation to allow faculty to earn direct tangible value for their
discoveries. Prior to the legislation, the amount of intellectual property being
created and developed for economic benefit by the state's academic institutions
was limited by the lack of financial incentive. Within the new legislative
framework, it is important to ensure that creation of intellectual property with
economic value is handled appropriately to avoid conflicts of interest.

In connection with our direct delivery of patient care, we have formed a
single not-for profit integrated practice plan out of more than 25 separate
for-profit practices. This is important because we need the partnership of
researchers with clinicians to translate discovery to patient care, and an
integrated practice plan facilitates those relationships. This plan is under a
new self-insurance trust that was put together with the university's healthcare
system. Significant legal firepower was needed to bring the practice plans and
the new self insurance trust together. Legal firepower also has been needed to
create a new non-profit "holding" company that will help bring our discoveries
to economic benefit as rapidly as possible. The cooperation among our internal
legal staff, the attorney general's office and outside experts, such as our
long-time friends at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP and Vorys, Sater,
Seymour and Pease LLP, has helped make this all possible.

It also goes without saying that in everything we do involving informatics
and communications applications to improve patient care, we have to be attentive
to HIPPA regulations and patient confidentiality. Good legal advice in these
areas is critical to our success in creating the future of medicine to improve
people's lives.