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This Research Will Change Lives: Biotech Institute to Focused Ultrasound, We’ve Been in the Headlines

the launch of the new biotechnology institute

One of the reasons the University of Virginia can offer the high level of expertise and advanced treatments we do is because we're an academic medical center. That means we don't just practice medicine, aka treat people. It means our doctors also teach and conduct research.

Read about the benefits of getting care at a teaching hospital.

Our teams constantly strive to evolve our understanding of how diseases work and better ways to treat them. We do this while training new and existing doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers across the Commonwealth on the latest advances and discoveries they need to know.

The ripple effects of our work can often be felt on a global scale. But the possibility of our impact isn't always obvious. We got a glimpse of what that looks like this last week when a couple of headlines splashed across the media.

Biotech Institute: Driving New Treatments to Save & Transform Lives

UVA Health announced plans to build the $300 million UVA Paul and Diane Manning Institute of Biotechnology.

So what's a biotech institute and what does it mean for our patients? At the biotech institute, UVA will pull together all the resources we need — researchers from all different areas, advanced technology, funding — to drive "translational" research.

That's research that leads to new and better treatments for even the most complex and difficult diseases. UVA is already doing this kind of research and the biotech institute means being able to do it even better.

Here are some examples of how translational research changes lives. When regular treatments for a child's leukemia didn't work or their cancer came back, doctors sometimes ran out of treatments to try. But because of research at UVA, there's now a treatment that can save that child's life — CAR T-cell therapy.

A decade ago, a condition called essential tremor made a man's hands shake so violently he couldn't eat a bowl of cereal. Then he became the first to receive focused ultrasound, a treatment pioneered at UVA. The results were dramatic and immediate: he used a steady hand to fill out a crossword puzzle in the waiting room after treatment.

The new institute will supercharge UVA's work to make discoveries that lead to treatments and cures that transform lives.

A National Spotlight on Focused Ultrasound at UVA Health

“I’ve been a neurosurgeon for nearly a quarter-century, and I’ve never seen this,” says CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD. In his news story, Gupta reports on Brenda Hric, a patient getting treated for essential tremor with focused ultrasound at UVA Health.

He also explores how research is expanding the uses for focused ultrasound in the U.S. and around the world. Fun fact: Recently, UVA Health launched the world's first focused ultrasound cancer immunotherapy center.

What is Focused Ultrasound?

Essential tremor is a condition that causes uncontrollable shaking, mostly in your hands and head. It can be treated with medication or deep brain stimulation, but not everyone responds to these treatments.

Focused ultrasound is a surgery that uses sound waves instead of a scalpel. It concentrates beams of sound to heat up and destroy a tiny part of your brain. It’s sort of like how a magnifying glass can focus beams of light to burn a hole in a leaf.

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With focused ultrasound, surgeons can operate on your brain without opening your skull. They can change the part of your brain that causes essential tremor without affecting other parts of your brain. “It can really change your life,” says Jeff Elias, MD, the neurosurgeon who pioneered this procedure here at UVA Health.

In the story, we see Brenda get focused ultrasound treatment and the changes it brings. “I looked at my hand, and that was the first time I had been able to see my fingers still in about 20 years,” she says. “I think it’s definitely a miracle, and I thank the Lord for it.”

For more on Brenda's fascinating experience with focused ultrasound, watch the story on CNN.

Watch for More: This Research Will Upend Everything

UVA Health researchers are also working on discovering:

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