McGowan Institute to Co-Direct $75 Million Phase of National Effort to Aid Wounded Warriors

Issue Date: 
October 14, 2013

The Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) will continue its efforts to apply the latest in tissue engineering and other regenerative medicine techniques to the treatment of battlefield injuries in a $75 million, five-year second phase of the AFIRM program.

The AFIRM-II consortium of more than 30 academic centers and industry partners will be co-directed by Rocky Tuan, associate director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, and director of the Center for Military Medicine Research at the University of Pittsburgh. The consortium will be led by Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

“For the next five years, AFIRM-II will aim to develop novel therapies for severely damaged limbs, reconstruct facial and skull injuries with tissue engineering approaches, regenerate skin for burns, find new ways to prevent rejection of composite tissues, such as hand transplants, and much more,” Tuan said. “We’ve accomplished a great deal in the first phase of this work, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to bring these innovative techniques to the clinical setting.”

Since its inception in 2008, AFIRM efforts have resulted in clinical studies of face transplantation, minimally invasive surgery for craniofacial injuries, scar reduction treatments, fat grafting for reconstructive surgery, and new treatments for burns.

“When warriors come back from the battlefield with serious life-changing injuries, it is our job to find new and innovative ways to help them. Ultimately, we’d like to create new treatments to repair these severe injuries as if they never happened,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick. “The science of regenerative medicine is one of the ways we fulfill our promise to service members who put themselves in harm’s way, that we will work our hardest and do our very best to take care of them.”

The AFIRM program not only funds scientific research, but also requires that discoveries be tested and compared so that the most promising therapies—which could benefit civilians as well as soldiers—can be brought to clinical trials. The consortium will work with health professionals at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Government sponsors of AFIRM are the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Medical Service, the Office of Research and Development-Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.