NDRI commemorates 35-year history, envisions advances of human tissue research


Philadelphia, October 20, 2015 — Philadelphia-based National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI), the nation’s premier provider of human biospecimens to advance medical disease research, will host a symposium, “From Donation to Discovery — The Critical Role of Human Tissue in Research,” Friday, October 30 at The Union League of Philadelphia. The event marks NDRI’s 35th anniversary of supporting research by providing human tissue for basic scientific and translational research, drug development and testing.

“It would be difficult to overstate the important role of human tissue in advancing medical research for the past 35 years,” said NDRI president and CEO Bill Leinweber, reflecting on the organization’s robust history, which began in 1980 to provide non-transplantable human pancreas biospecimens to diabetes researchers. Through that early work, NDRI played a pivotal role in supporting the development of experimental methods for isolating human pancreatic islet cells for the scientific advancement — its success swiftly leading to an expansion of NDRI’s revolutionary efforts to be the nation’s premier provider of human biospecimens for research across the full spectrum of diseases.

“We look forward to imagining the advances the next 35 years will bring and contributing through ever-stronger partnerships with organ procurement organizations, tissue banks, eye banks and hospitals to link donated human tissue to researcher requests,” added Meenhard Herlyn, DVM, DSc, of Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute and Chairman of the NDRI Board of Directors.

Walter Koroshetz, MD, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, will be the keynote speaker at the symposium. Dr. Koroshetz has held numerous leadership roles with NIH and NINDS, including NIH’s BRAIN Initiative, the Traumatic Brain Injury Center collaborative between the NIH intramural program and the Uniformed Health Services University, and the multi-year work to develop and establish the NIH Office of Emergency Care Research.

The symposium will feature three panel discussions exploring the gamut of biospecimen research. Susan Dentzer, senior policy adviser with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on-air health issues analyst with PBS NewsHour, NPR commentator and former editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, will moderate.

In the day’s first panel, “Advancing the Nation’s Brain Initiative,” panelists will delve into President Obama’s BRAIN initiative, a bold new research effort to revolutionize understanding of the human mind and uncover ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders.

Panel Two — “Disease Research and the Power of Partnerships” — will illustrate the critical importance of human tissue in the study and development of treatments for rare diseases, which usually lack relevant animal models. The small number of patients with each disease, together with the financial hurdles the pharmaceutical industry must overcome in order to discover and advance novel therapies, necessitates the development of effective partnerships between government, academia, industry and philanthropy.

The final panel, “From Passive to Prospective Donor Selection,” will explore the growing sophistication of new donor screening models and methods to obtain appropriate authorizations to advance the future of research.

NDRI is a non-profit, federally funded organization founded in 1980 to help scientists, who lacked an adequate source of pancreas for research, find a cure for diabetes. As the concept of a national human tissue and organ retrieval system grew to reality, researchers studying other types of diseases and conditions recognized the success of NDRI’s national network and began requesting help in finding human biomaterials for their research projects,. Today, researchers from universities, medical centers, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the United States, and from around the world rely on NDRI to deliver the specimens needed to advance their studies in such fields as HIV, AIDS, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, and traumatic brain injury.


For more information, contact: Kerri Harvey, NDRI 215-557-7361 ext. 216 or events@ndriresource.org