The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have formed a partnership with the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences to establish the Center for Drug Safety Sciences based in Research Triangle Park.

The new center will be led by Paul Watkins, MD, one of the world’s leading experts in drug-induced liver injury. Watkins will develop new drug-safety initiatives with academic partners, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, the National Institutes of Health, and the FDA. He will retain his position as the Verne S. Caviness Distinguished Professor of Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“The Institute for Drug Safety Sciences positions North Carolina to be a leading force in drug safety,” said William Greenlee, PhD, president and CEO of the Hamner Institutes. “This partnership with one of the world’s leading biomedical research universities will bring together academe, the bio-pharma industry, and government to accelerate the discovery and development of new and safer medicines.”

The Institute for Drug Safety Sciences is a unique collaboration between the Hamner Institutes, a private nonprofit translational-research organization in Research Triangle Park, and the medical and pharmacy schools at UNC-Chapel Hill. The Hamner Institutes and the University have committed to spend at least $10 million over the next three years to launch the center and its research and training programs. A new 14,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art research laboratory that will open in early 2009 at the Hamner Institutes is included in the funding commitments, along with several new joint faculty appointments from UNC-Chapel Hill.

“For many people, life depends on safe, effective drugs,” said Holden Thorp, PhD, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  “With the Hamner Institutes and our other collaborators, we will use research-based information to enhance drug safety and improve human health. I can’t imagine anyone more qualified to lead this vital effort than Paul Watkins.”

The Institute for Drug Safety Sciences is the first initiative resulting from a memorandum of understanding that the Hamner Institutes and the University signed on April 18, 2008. This agreement was established to guide innovative collaborations in translational research and to provide new opportunities for the Hamner Institutes to work with the University’s Office of Technology Development and Kenan-Flagler Business School on business-development and scientific-entrepreneurship projects.

The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences is strategically located on a fifty-six-acre campus in the heart of Research Triangle Park. As a cross-disciplinary nonprofit organization, the Hamner Institutes acts as a catalyst to facilitate technology development among North Carolina universities, while serving as a gateway to establish research collaborations with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry and with countries in Europe and Asia. The Hamner Institutes also has an accelerator to support emerging companies and a new Institute for Translational Medicine to enhance its research in oncology, diabetes, and respiratory diseases.

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