Mission Statements

Cardiovascular Research Initiative at Columbia University Medical Center

Over the last decade, Columbia University Medical Center has emerged as a leading research center for cardiovascular research, especially in areas such as atherosclerosis, lipoproteins, coronary artery restenosis, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure.  The state-of-the-art Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, established in 1997, provided further opportunities for collaborations in the cardiovascular complications of diabetes and obesity.  In 2004, CUMC recruited a major interventional cardiology group (now known as CIVT) to carry out research on devices and treatments of coronary artery disease.  And just this year we announced a new patient care facility that will greatly increase our clinical capacity and enable a tremendous volume of new translational research.  As a complement to these efforts, we continue to recruit talented junior researchers in cardiology, vascular biology, and membrane physiology.

Building on this momentum, we have established the Cardiovascular Research Initiative (CVRI) at Columbia University Medical Center.  This initiative is an integral component of Dean Goldman’s vision to be indisputably in the top five and arguably #1 in the area of cardiovascular medicine, a goal that is close at hand now that we are ranked #6 in the nation.  The CVRI will serve as the intellectual home for our expanding initiatives in cardiovascular research that will be both basic and translational in nature.  It will allow Columbia to enhance existing programs while recruiting and retaining the best scientists in the field.  It will also, in very practical ways, lead to better therapies and cures for human diseases, from atherosclerosis and high blood pressure to arrhythmias and heart failure.

The Cardiovascular Research Initiative’s goals are as follows:

  1. To support the highest-level basic and translational research among departments and divisions involved in cardiovascular research.
  2. To foster interdisciplinary collaborations among departments and divisions involved in cardiovascular research.
  3. To help develop new programs and strengthen existing efforts in cardiovascular research, including new recruitment. Targeted areas for development include cardiovascular genetics, vascular biology, and developmental biology.
  4. To support a high-profile seminar series, occurring on a quarterly basis and involving distinguished visiting speakers, designated as Wu Visiting Professors or Wu Lecturers. These seminars include those Wu Visiting Professors Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at Duke University and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (December 10, 2007), Dr. Helen H. Hobbs, Director, McDermott Center and Chief, Division of Clinical Genetics, Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (December 1, 2008 ). The Wu Visiting Professor for 2009 will be Shaun R. Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute and Professor of Medicine and of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco (December 7, 2009). Wu Lecturers have included Arthur Moss, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Director of the Heart Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center (October 27, 2008 ), and Christopher C. Glass M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California, San Diego (March 17, 2008).
  5. To support the awarding of the Lewis Katz Prizes in Cardiovascular Research. The 2007 Katz Prize, ceremony was held on October 30, 2007 and honored James T. Willerson, M.D., President of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Thomas G. Diacovo, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology and Director of Neonatal Research at Columbia University Medical Center.
  6. In the long-term, to develop new space to support cardiovascular research, including the construction of a new building that will house scientists affiliated with the Cardiovascular Research Initiative.

Cardiovascular Research Initiative: Why Now?

As we are all aware, cardiovascular disease remains the major cause of death and disability in both the United States and Europe, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is predicted to exact a similar toll in the developing world within the next decade. While treatments are available for atherosclerosis, diabetes, and heart failure, these therapies are only partly effective, and their expense limits their availability.  Moreover, the mechanistic links between diabetes and atherosclerosis, restenosis, and heart failure are not well understood, in part because of poor integration between different fields of research. Increased collaboration and more efficient clinical translation of basic research in these areas is likely to lead to new treatments that will be available to a greater number of people.

Columbia University Medical Center is a major center for the research and treatment of cardiovascular disease, with programs spanning the gamut from basic research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of atherosclerosis and heart failure to the evaluation of new devices and treatments being used to unblock coronary arteries or to support patients with severe heart failure.  Although CUMC currently boasts a great deal of collaborative research, supported by a number of major program grants, this research is spread over five different departments.  There is a tremendous need to expand our collaborative opportunities, to integrate basic and applied research, and to accelerate the translation of basic research in the clinical sphere.  At the moment, our efforts in cardiovascular research are scattered across the campus and lack optimal coordination and translation.  The localization of these research efforts in a new cardiovascular research building—a major capital goal of the Cardiovascular Research Initiative—will greatly enhance collaboration and translation in all areas of related research.

Most of the key players in cardiovascular research are at the full professor level, and these senior scientists have an excellent track record of training young scientists and in recruiting outstanding talent.  While Columbia does have some promising new talent, we lack a sufficient cohort of researchers at the associate and assistant professor levels, and our efforts to recruit these young investigators have been limited by the lack of new, first-class laboratory space.  This space is urgently needed to train the next generation of cardiovascular researchers and to foster the development of young scientists at CUMC.

Tied to one of the nation's leading academic medical institutions, located at the heart of the most diverse patient base in the world, and armed with the most advanced technologies and facilities available, the Cardiovascular Research Initiative stands to serve as a catalyst for the future of cardiovascular research at CUMC and beyond.