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Excellence in Leading Edge Crohn's Disease Research

UH Digestive Health Institute - January 2017 


Chief Scientific Officer, University Hospitals Digestive Health Institute; Chief, Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center; Hermann Menges, Jr. Chair in Internal Medicine; Director, Digestive Health Research Institute; Director, Silvio O. Conte Digestive Diseases Research Core Center; Associate Dean for Program Development, and Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center continues to grow as an internationally renowned center for research and care of digestive diseases, advancing knowledge in this area and making a difference in patient lives every day.

In early 2016, Fabio Cominelli, MD, PhD, Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Associate Dean for Program Development and Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, received a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a state-of-the-art Digestive Diseases Research Core Center.

One of 17 such centers funded by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at top institutions, the center supports infrastructure and core services to increase the impact of digestive disease research in the Cleveland area. Its focus is on two major areas – digestive inflammation and metabolism – and major components of the research are Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

“This grant was very competitive, among some of the country’s very top centers,” says Dr. Cominelli. “We’re extremely pleased that we succeeded on our first try.”

The center aims to enhance investigators’ basic research capabilities and support young investigators’ development. The center translates basic research discoveries to the clinical arena and seeks to attract established investigators not yet involved in digestive disease research.

Dr. Cominelli received another $9.7 million NIH grant in August to study the pathogenic mechanism of Crohn’s disease and ultimately apply that knowledge to produce new treatments. Roughly 780,000 Americans have Crohn’s disease, yet its cause is unknown.

“Almost everyone knows someone with Crohn’s disease,” Dr. Cominelli says. “Since Crohn’s symptoms have a significant impact on quality of life, a better understanding of it has the potential to improve many patients’ lives in meaningful ways – and that impact extends not only to the United States but globally.”

Following the announcement of this second grant, the center received calls from patients around the world wanting to participate. For patients enrolled in these studies, benefits include not only contributing to scientific knowledge and developing future treatments but receiving the very best care.

The Crohn’s disease study builds on previous work by expanding the study of inflammatory molecules and their relationships with bacteria in the intestine. The study has three components, led respectively by Dr. Cominelli; Derek Abbott, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; and Theresa T. Pizarro, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. They will be supported by a team of colleagues, including Alex Rodriguez-Palacios, DVM, MSc, DVSc, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

The multidisciplinary, collaborative approach at UH Cleveland Medical Center is a key part of its research and clinical strengths in gastroenterology. From our multidisciplinary team to the collaborative relationships with partner health care systems in the region, UH Cleveland Medical Center brings state-of-the-art care and world-class research to benefit patients and research study participants.

The new research core center and Crohn’s study together keep UH Cleveland Medical Center and its partner institutions at the forefront of studying digestive disease, educating the next generation of gastroenterologists and providing excellent, advanced clinical care for patients.

All National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for basic and clinical research is awarded to the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

For more information, call 216-844-7344 or email