- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

George Mason University signed a three-year agreement with the Italian government this week to set up a research program that would develop new diagnostic tests and therapies for cancer.

George Mason and the Instituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS), the technical and scientific arm of the Italian National Health Service, will focus on proteomics research, an emerging field of medicine that studies protein activity in cells.

“It’s really great for the university because it allows us access to a unique collection of tissue samples and we get to train these young Italian scientists with cutting-edge technology,” said program co-director Emanuel Petricoin.

Under the agreement, ISS will provide the university with human tissue and blood samples collected from healthy Italian patients and those with all kinds of cancers. The Italian institute also will finance Italian scientists who already are working with George Mason scientists and will provide access to research in Italy’s cancer centers.

The two groups plan to share any “financial gains” that come from commercializing the research, which will be done at George Mason’s Prince William campus in Manassas.

Mercer bird-flu guide

Mercer Human Resource Consulting this week introduced a free online guide for businesses on how they can prepare for a potential avian-influenza pandemic.

It’s the first time the New York human resources consulting company has put together a free Web source on outbreak preparedness, said spokesman Charles Salmans.

While he would not estimate the cost, Mr. Salmans said the program “has not been cheap, since it involved consultant work in Asia, North America and Europe.”

Mercer developed the pandemic plan program, found at www.mercerhr.com/avianflu, in response to increasing client concerns that the virulent H5N1 strain of the virus could mutate and spread more easily among humans, Mr. Salmans said.

The current form of avian influenza, which has caused 94 human deaths, has infected mostly poultry from Southeast Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“The threat of a pandemic demands that companies develop and implement proactive crisis leadership strategies,” said Jim Reynolds, a principal in Mercer’s health and productivity management business.

The guide includes advice on employee benefits and communications, a survey for companies to see how prepared they are and what human resource problems could arise from a bird-flu outbreak.

Hospital renamed

MedLink Hospital and Nursing Center at Capitol Hill, a long-term acute care facility in Northeast, this week was renamed the Specialty Hospital of Washington.

The new name highlights the November acquisition of MedLink by Specialty Hospitals of America LLC, a Portsmouth, N.H., health care management company for $8 million.

The specialty hospital caters to patients with medically complex conditions, such as kidney disease or severe wounds, who need a longer hospital stay to recuperate.

“The new name signifies the specialized services that the long-term acute care hospital and nursing center provides, positive changes in patient care and services, and our commitment to the Washington, D.C., community,” said Eric Rieseberg, chairman and chief executive of the hospital.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call 202/636-4892 or e-mail mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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