Public Service Award
As chair of the Lasker Foundation's Public Service Award Committee, it is my privilege to introduce the recipient of the 2011 Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award.
The 2011 Public Service Award goes not to an individual, but to an institution, and not for a single discovery, but for sustained and singular contributions to health. Establishment of the Clinical Center at the NIH in 1953 was a far-sighted investment by the U.S. Government: it created a model for the fully engaged, research-intensive, academic medical center, and the NIH Clinical Center went on to train some of the country's most esteemed medical scientists.
The Clinical Center of the NIH has provided decades of public service through a skillful marriage of science and clinical care. The Center and the individuals associated with itas investigators, care givers, and traineeshave made major progress in every area recognized by the Lasker Awards: in diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of human disease.
The Clinical Center is the largest hospital in the nation devoted entirely to clinical research, and it operates on a scale that applies the benefits of research collaboration across the full spectrum of diseases. More than 400,000 patients have participated in the Center's research program over the years. All patients receive care free of charge and often participate in early trials of new drugs and other treatments.
Let me highlight a few of the contributions emanating from the work of the Clinical Center:
- Discoveries in the 1960s by Roscoe Brady and Elizabeth Neufeld traced specific enzyme deficiencies to certain severe, inherited diseases, laying the groundwork for prenatal diagnosis and pointing the way to enzyme-replacement therapy.
- In that same decade, scientists began working on combination chemotherapy for a variety of cancers. At the time, chemotherapy was viewed mainly as a means of palliating cancer rather than as a possible cure. The Center, and the freedom it provided, enabled clinician-scientists to explore the unorthodox, even radical idea that combination chemotherapy could lead to complete remission for certain types of cancer.
- The Center's work to identify hepatitis B and C viruses as well as H.I.V. helped to dramatically lower transmission of these viruses in the blood supply, and their scientists demonstrated the therapeutic potential of the first effective drug to combat AIDS, AZT.
Today, the Clinical Center's Undiagnosed Disease Program, launched in 2008, brings in patients with medical problems that defy most experts. Since 2008, the center has reviewed more than 4,000 distinct patient records, and collaborative research on the causes of many of these unusual diseases is underway. Success in understanding the nature of a rare disease can also shed light on the etiology of common diseases, thus helping many individuals.
Beyond its success in clinical research, the NIH Clinical Center from the start has served an educational purpose, attracting talented, young researchers to train with eminent scientists and physicians. The Clinical Center boasts a stellar roster of alumni who, as trainees, played pivotal roles in the work of the Center and went on to become distinguished scientific leaders throughout the United States and around the world. The impact of the Center on clinical and basic science has amplified across generations and geography.
The NIH Clinical Center continues to rise to the challenge of undiagnosed disease and untested cures. In 2005, the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center opened with a flexible capacity of 240 inpatient beds and 82 day beds. Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon was a vigorous champion for medical research throughout his congressional career. I would like to take a moment now to recognize Mr. Visko Hatfield, the late senator's son, who is with us today. We harbor the hope, that I am sure would have been dear to your late father, that the NIH Clinical Center will continue to prosper and serve as an unparalleled resource for clinical research and medical progress.
I would like to invite all those present who work at the NIH Clinical Center, those who work at any part of the NIH, and those who worked at any time as a trainee or a researcher at the Clinical Center to stand and be recognized.
Please join me now in congratulating Dr. John Gallin, director of the NIH Clinical Center, and all those responsible for the success we celebrate in today's recipient of the 2011 Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award, the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health.