This is a seminal moment for The Wistar Institute. In a generation, this moment will seem every bit as historic as the founding of the Institute in 1892, or when we earned the designation of Philadelphia’s first National Cancer Institute Cancer Center in 1972.
On a rainy Friday afternoon in September 2011, The Wistar Institute celebrated a landmark occasion. Crowded inside the atrium of Wistar’s historic 1894 building, away from the torrent outside, the Institute made officially public its intent to build a new, seven-story, 89,700-square-foot research tower and renovate significant portions of its existing research complex.
They call it the quiet phase of the capital campaign, but you would not know it as such if you stopped by the Office of Development at The Wistar Institute. Officially launched on September 23 to coincide with the groundbreaking of Wistar’s new research tower, the $35 million Building Wistar, Changing the World capital campaign has, like planning for the tower itself, required months of bustling activity.
This year, The Wistar Institute embarked on an ambitious master plan that will not only add a massive research tower to the campus, but also completely modernize and upgrade the existing facilities through over 50,000 square feet of renovations. As if that were not remarkable enough, the Institute plans to make all of these dramatic changes while keeping its laboratories open for business.
This summer, The Wistar Institute entered into an historic collaborative partnership with the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, part of the State of Delaware’s largest medical provider, the Christiana Care Health System.
Commitment is a given for scientists. Among all the characteristics commonly associated with scientists, perhaps the trait of focused commitment holds the most truth. You simply cannot obtain a Ph.D. from a reputable institution without long hours alone at the laboratory bench, in front of a computer monitor, or out in the field. But it takes real commitment to cling to a line of research when government grants are hard to come by and even your colleagues raise their eyebrows at your work.
What makes ectopic pregnancy the leading cause of death for pregnant women in their first trimester is the condition’s unpredictability. A growing embryo, lodged dangerously in the Fallopian tubes, occurs about once in 100 pregnancies, but most cases are not discovered until a patient seeks treatment in the emergency room.
Now, however, Wistar researchers have discovered a set of protein biomarkers — blood-borne indicators of disease — that may provide doctors with the first blood test for ectopic pregnancy.
Each cell in the human body has the ability to self-destruct if the need arises, whether that need is to remove the webbing between fetal fingers before birth or to remove an infected or defective cell from a healthy body. Cancer cells, however, tend to rewire themselves in a way that cuts this self-destruction fuse.
As part of its broader strategic vision, The Wistar Institute is seeking a few good women and men to augment its faculty. The object is to bolster Wistar’s capacity for innovative science by strategically recruiting new faculty whose skills will complement those of Wistar’s current roster of scientists. These recruitment efforts are part of Wistar’s focus on “team science,” and its implementation is already well under way.
From the days when folks like Caspar Wistar, Benjamin Franklin, and David Rittenhouse graced the Colonial scene to its modern role as a powerhouse in technology and biomedicine, one thing is clear: Philadelphia is a science town.