New Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine to lead way in caring for wounded

May 30, 2008
AFIRM to provide key guidance on military medical needs and conduct trials of new therapies.

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The Department of Defense announced the creation of the new, federally-funded institution, the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) during a briefing today at the Pentagon.

The AFIRM will be made up of two multi-institutional consortia, one led by Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and the University of Pittsburgh; and one led by Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., and the Cleveland Clinic. The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas, will work with these academic consortia to provide key guidance on military medical needs and conduct trials of new therapies.

"Therapies developed by the AFIRM project will greatly benefit wounded warriors, as well as the civilian population, with burns or severe trauma due to illness or injury," said Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

The AFIRM team is committed to developing clinical therapies over the next five years focusing on the following five areas:

• Burn repair

• Wound healing without scarring

• Craniofacial reconstruction

• Limb reconstruction, regeneration or transplantation

• Compartment syndrome, a condition related to inflammation after surgery or injury that can lead to increased pressure, impaired blood flow, nerve damage and muscle death

"Following in the great military medical tradition of innovation, collaboration and progressive research, AFIRM will unify and apply all the recent breakthroughs in regenerative medicine while leading the charge to new ones," said Casscells.

The U. S. Army Medical Research Material Command, in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Air Force Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Veterans Affairs will fund the consortia.

In addition to $85 million in defense funding, an additional $180 million from academic institutions, industry and state and federal agencies will be contributed — for a total of more than $250 million available for regeneration research.

"The new institute will work to develop techniques that will help to make our soldiers whole again," explained Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the U.S. Army surgeon general. "We're embarking on the next generation of research that is going to redefine the face of Army medicine. We're doing it with enthusiastic and skilled partners, and we're doing it for our wounded warriors."

The AFIRM is a strong national effort to address the unprecedented challenges of caring for service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with multiple traumatic injuries. Some of our wounded warriors face the daily challenges of recovery from severe limb, head, face and burn injuries that require years of treatment and may result in a significant lifetime impairment.

In addition to developing clinical treatments, the AFIRM will serve as a training facility to develop experts in treating trauma with regenerative medicine and will serve as a resource to help the military develop tissues as needs are identified.