As reported by The Hartford Courant, May 9, 2011.

UConn, Area Hospitals Make Breakthroughs Together

UConn Health Center Forging Collaborations with Hospitals

By William Weir

A specialist in infectious diseases at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Dr. Juan Salazar has collaborated regularly with researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center. He says the relationship has led to several breakthroughs in his work.

"If I stayed primarily in the walls of the children's hospital, I would not be able to do what I'm doing now," he said.

Dr. Marc Lalande, senior associate dean of research planning and coordination at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, said he appreciates the sentiment.

"What we've been doing in the past couple years is an effort to collaborate with area hospitals," Lalande said. "We're trying to help them grow their research, and they're trying to help ours."

The cooperative spirit was seen last week when researchers from Hartford Hospital, Connecticut Children's Medical Center and the UConn Health Center took part in Collaborative Research Day at UConn's Cell and Genome Sciences Building. The day focused on pediatric mental health, with researchers speaking about autism and attention deficit disorder, among other topics.

UConn and the Connecticut Children's Medical Center have long shared expertise and resources. Earlier this year, they formalized the relationship with a written agreement. And the Health Center has recently forged a relationship with Hartford Hospital. No formal agreement has been signed, Lalande said, but the Health Center and the hospital share a stroke research center and are jointly applying for a grant to use stem cells from patients with schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Dr. Christine Finck, an associate director of surgery at the Children's Medical Center in Hartford, has been working with the Health Center for four years. Her research, which focuses on the potential for stem cells to transform into lung cells, has benefited from the experience of the Health Center's researchers as much as it has from the facility and equipment.

"Finding mentors there has been very good for my work," she said.

Salazar agreed that the experience at the Health Center is the most vital part of the collaboration. He credits UConn's Dr. Justin Radolf for guiding him in laboratory skills. Today, the two are frequent collaborators. Radolf is a co-author of a recent study led by Salazar. Published in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the paper sheds light on the interactions of the Lyme disease virus and human cells.

It's a relationship that works both ways. Besides getting a share of the grants awarded to Salazar, UConn researchers have access to Salazar's expertise and to his patients for their own studies.

Dr. Georgine Burke, director of research at the Children's Medical Center, said the collaboration just made sense because the Children's Hospital was built without a laboratory. And both stand to benefit if any of the discoveries made through the researchers' collaboration have commercial potential.

How much each side gets depends on who did what in the discovery, but Burke said it could be 50-50 if both the hospital and UConn have principal investigators working on it. If the principals are only from the Children's Medical Center, then it's split 90-10. Details about licensing, patenting and commercial viability are worked out by UConn's Center for Science and Technology Commercialization.