Newswise — Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has committed $11.79 million in support of biomedical research at West Virginia University over the next three years, the University announced today (August 22).

The Wyeth Pharmaceutical Research Fund at WVU will be used to support up to 15 new faculty positions at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.

The University hopes to hire scientists in heart and vascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, neurobiology and respiratory biology.

"These Wyeth Research Scholars will contribute their efforts toward finding the causes and cures of diseases that afflict tens of thousands of West Virginians. This will add immeasurably to the advancement of WVU as a research institution, and the achievement of our strategic research plan," says David C. Hardesty, University President.

"Wyeth chose WVU for this research support because of its history of high quality research and a faculty and administration committed to pursuing the best science possible in state-of-the-art biomedical research facilities," says Robert R. Ruffolo, Jr., Ph.D., President, Research & Development, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Senior Vice President, Wyeth.

Wyeth agreed in 2000 to fund this research as part of an agreement that settled West Virginia diet drug litigation.

The Wyeth Fund will enable WVU to take immediate action in filling faculty positions called for in its long-term bioscience research plan.

WVU health researchers have identified six core areas of research, based in large part on the health needs of the state. The Wyeth funds will support basic research in three of the core areas: cardiovascular sciences, respiratory biology and diabetes/obesity.

"We have a very high incidence of obesity and diabetes in our adult population in West Virginia, especially in women," says Thomas Saba, Ph.D., WVU's associate vice president for health sciences research. "There is an unusually high incidence of diabetes in children, likely also linked to obesity. Respiratory mechanisms are significantly altered by obesity. We can use the Wyeth Research Fund to accomplish the University's strategic goals in research, and honor the desire by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals to strategically invest in these areas of research.

The new researchers will help WVU fill laboratory spaces being constructed as part of the University's ambitious research expansion project. Among projects under construction at WVU or planned for the immediate future -- funded in large part with Federal dollars secured by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd -- are the Health Sciences Library/Learning Center; the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Center (which also has state and private funding); a new biosciences research building; and renovations and expansions to existing spaces in the Health Sciences building.

"Because of the infrastructure we are building " with the support of Senator Byrd, Senator Rockefeller and the State of West Virginia " we are ready to move forward with recruitment," says Robert M. D'Alessandri, M.D., WVU vice president for health sciences.

"We are already in an aggressive recruitment program," D'Alessandri notes. In the last year, WVU has attracted several established scientists with ongoing NIH research projects. "The Wyeth Research Scholars will include both junior and senior scientists, and will join either the WVU School of Medicine or School of Pharmacy at the professor, assistant professor or associate professor level. In addition to strengthening our research programs, they will add depth to our teaching faculty and to our clinical departments."

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