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DOYLESTOWN, Pa. -- The Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research (IHVR) also known as the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Institute was opened in 2004 by the Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) and has officially begun its work. As an independent research facility, the IHVR will serve as the research arm of the HBF, fulfilling its mission to use discovery science to find new therapies and early detection markers for viral hepatitis and liver cancer. It is charged with seeking to find cures for viral hepatitis, nurturing biotechnology entrepreneurship, recruiting and training future researchers, and providing public health outreach programs in partnership with the HBF.
According to founding president and director, Timothy M. Block, PhD, the new institute has already formed powerful alliances among leading state and academic institutions that will help meet its goals. These alliances are creating greater focus in the pursuit of common mission oriented themes and activities that will help make the IHVR a world-class research facility.
To assure maximum impact for its efforts, the institute now houses the Hepatitis B Foundation Laboratory (established in 1994) and two additional state-of-the-art research labs. Each day, IHVR and HBF scientists work as a team alongside 30 Drexel University researchers who are part of the Drexel Institute for Biotechnology and Virology Research in adjacent laboratories. They work on a variety of fronts developing and testing new drugs and therapies focused on viral hepatitis, liver cancer, and other viral diseases.
The innovative programs of IHVR include a large 80,000 chemical compound library and screening program for anti-hepatitis drug discovery, and a proteomics facility that utilizes sophisticated technology to examine proteins from those infected with hepatitis B and C for use as potential markers for early detection of disease, such as liver cancer.
The ongoing work of the Hepatitis B Foundation received positive reinforcement on January 31, 2005, when the National Institutes of Health included the hepatitis B virus and the hepatitis C virus on its growing list of cancer-causing agents. They are listed in the report as known human carcinogens because studies in humans show that chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections cause liver cancer. More than one million Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis B, which increases the risk for developing liver cancer 20 percent to 40 percent. Worldwide, 80 percent of all liver cancer is due to chronic hepatitis B infections.
When asked about the uniqueness of the IHVRs design and the importance of its work, Dr. Block stated, This is a very unusual design for a nonprofit research institute because we need to think outside of the box in order to create novel and effective therapies against hepatitis B. IHVR is filling an important role that will result in better understanding, greater experience, and advanced technologies to help us combat hepatitis B, liver cancer, and other serious viral diseases.
Established in 1991, the Hepatitis B Foundation is headquartered in Doylestown, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, and is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure and improving the quality of life for those affected by hepatitis B worldwide through research, education, and patient advocacy. Plans for 2005 include the HBF and IHVR moving into a new Doylestown Science Center, co-owned by the HBF, that will also be home to several start-up biotechnology companies and serve as a valuable economic stimulus to the area. A new Web site has been constructed specifically for the institute www.ihvr.org. To learn more about the foundation, telephone 215.489.4900 or visit the Web site, www.hepb.org.
Source: Hepatitis B Foundation