New Tower is Hospital’s Largest Project in Nearly 40 Years

Huntsville Hospital has broken ground on the biggest medical construction project in the downtown area in almost four decades.

The new Orthopedic & Spine Tower will feature 375,000 square feet of surgical, patient care and specialized physical rehabilitation space in the heart of the hospital campus. The tower will house the hospital’s orthopedic and spine surgery programs.

Scheduled to open in 2021, the seven-story building is across Gallatin Street from the main entrance of Huntsville Hospital; a walking bridge will connect the buildings.

“As our community and region continue to grow, our hospital is keeping pace with the need for advanced health care services and facilities,” said David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital Health System.

Jeff Samz, the system’s COO, said the Orthopedic & Spine Tower will have 72 private patient rooms, as well as 24 state-of-the-art operating rooms. It will also have a restaurant on the ground floor.

“With the new tower, we will also eliminate most of the semi-private accommodations in our main hospital,” Samz said.

Designed by Chapman Sisson Architects, the Orthopedic & Spine Tower will fill a city block at the corner of Gallatin Street and St. Clair Avenue. It is the largest medical construction project in downtown Huntsville since the hospital opened its north tower in 1980. Robins & Morton is the general contractor.

HudsonAlpha Scientist on Forefront of Addressing Rare Diseases

 

Dr. David Bick named to Alabama Rare Disease Council

Alabama is working to be among the leaders in diagnosing rare diseases and Dr. David Bick of

HudsonAlpha’s Institute for Biotechnology is part of the strategy.

Bick, a clinical geneticist and a faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha, sees rare disease patients

at the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine located on the institute’s Huntsville campus.

Because of his expertise in genomic medicine and more than 20 years of clinical experience

Bick was recently appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey to the newly created Alabama Rare Disease

Council, established by the Alabama Legislature.

“There are a lot of people in Alabama with rare diseases and our purpose is to help our state’s

leaders address those needs,” Bick says of the 10-member council. “We want to improve the

healthcare of the citizens of our state and our leaders want to get expert advice in thinking

about it.”

He describes it as a diverse council with everyone from healthcare providers to researchers.

“There’s a lot of representation on the council that bring a variety of voices together in a room

if you will. The council is charged with trying to improve our understanding of how to

diagnose and make an impact on these on families dealing with rare diseases.

“If we can collect information on impact and cost and coordinate and collaborate among

different groups as a way to better inform lawmakers about what’s going on we can help

citizens to improve their care and overall health,” he added.

He says the council was established to be a voice for individuals with rare conditions, and

similar council’s are being set up around the country.

It’s also about realization of what genetics testing can provide.

“Being a geneticist, we see people with neurologic or immunologic conditions that while they

may be rare conditions, there are quite a bit (of people) out there with it. There’s a lot of

work being done in Alabama for medicine in general but one thing we tried to emphasize is

rare disease is not so rare,” he says.

For example, he says, Cystic fibrosis affects one in 2,500.

“That doesn’t sound like a very big number but we have all heard of it,” he says. “Take that

across the whole state and it all adds up.”

Another example, he says, is Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a condition that involves spinal cord

cells dying, usually in children but has been seen in adults at about one in 10,000.

“When you add up the numbers, it adds up to big numbers,” Bick says. “If one in 10 Americans

have a rare diseases, that’s about 400,000 in Alabama.”

Patients often arrive a Bick’s office after seeing multiple doctors or specialists who have gone

as far as they can with traditional testing models.

“A neurologist can say to a person who is having trouble walking that their condition has

something with the nerves in the legs,” Bick says. “It may be a peripheral neuropathy and

simple testing shows that but it may be that one of these rare conditions in which the nerves

are not working properly so we do DNA testing and look at the genes to determine the cause.”

For some, there is treatment. For other conditions, there is no treatment but there may be

clinical or pharmaceutical trials in which the patient might be interested in participating in or

following updates.

 Bick says when there are things that are not known from the testing, at least once it is known

what the condition is, the tests show if other family members are at risk for the condition and

if the condition will progress and if so, how it will progress.

 “People want to know what will happen to them, for example, if it’s nerves in the legs, could it

also impact other parts of the body? Sometimes it is yes, there are things we have to watch

out for or it may be simply the current symptoms are the only thing they will experience.

Bick says there is “tons” of research going on around rare genetic conditions for people who

have known conditions.

“We study them because we know how to develop a treatment but if we do not know what a

person has, how can we develop new treatments.”

Genetic testing is for those who have little or no family medical history. It’s also for those who

can’t get a diagnosis no matter how many tests or doctors they see.

The first step for genetic testing is to call to the clinic or get a doctor referral. A patient will

talk with a genetics counselor and if records are available from other doctors that have been

seen, they will be reviewed and costs will be discussed.

“After genome testing has been completed, if we can identify a genetic issue we will open up

lines of communication with the physician about the condition and see if we can further

identify the problem. Meanwhile, the doctor can tailor the patient’s care,” Bick says.

He says that of the 20,000 genes in the human genome, about 4,000 to 5,000 of them have

been connected to specific conditions. The remainder can be identified as doing its job or it’s

never been connected to a medical problem. Although there are hundreds of new conditions

figured out each year.

 “It gets us to lots of conditions already known and lots of others are being discovered,” Bick

says. “Once we’ve sequenced all the genes of a patient, we can go back every year or couple

of years to see if something new has turned up that would show a connection between a

specific gene and genetic condition.”

CFDRC acquisition to speed discovery of new antibiotics

A pair of HudsonAlpha companies are combining to speed the discovery of new antibiotics.

CFD Research Corp. has acquired the drug discovery division of iXpressGenes; both are associate companies at Huntsville-based HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

As part of the acquisition, CFDRC obtained iXG’s high-throughput antimicrobial discovery platform called EMAD (Extremophilic Microbiome Antimicrobial Discovery) and all key personnel associated with the division including the director, AJ Singhal.

“We are excited about integrating the EMAD platform with CFDRC’s existing biomedical technologies to accelerate the discovery of new antibiotics against biowarfare agents and drug-resistant bacteria,” said CFDRC President/CEO Sameer Singhal. “The EMAD platform will allow efficient discoveries … and lead to the development of new antibacterial natural products.”

Sentar wins 2018 FEDHEALTHIT innovation award

Huntsville, AL – May 23, 2018 – Sentar, Inc. (Sentar), a Women-Owned Small Business, and its Government Customer have been selected by FedHealthIT magazine as one of its 2018 Innovation Award winners. FedHealthIT, a print and digital magazine dedicated to providing Federal health technology news and insights to key Government and industry decision-makers, recently honored companies, agencies, and programs providing effective innovations within the Government healthcare services industry. With this award, FedHealthIT recognizes Sentar for services and capabilities provided to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) through the Mitigation and Remediation Support (MARS) team.

The MARS team has been widely recognized for its technical acumen, forward-thinking, and standardized solutions to resolving myriad cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the DHA Enterprise. This capability has been leveraged by Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) and programs, world-wide. Given these contributions to Enterprise security, MARS staff have received accolades from Enterprise, site, and system leadership; Naval Commendations; and now, the FedHealthIT Innovation Award.

“Sentar is proud to be recognized by the FedHealthIT Innovation Awards alongside government and industry leaders from across the federal health technology and consulting sector,” said April Nadeau, VP (DHA, SPAWAR, Navy and Marine Corps). “We are truly honored to share this honor with our customer, the Defense Health Agency, and look forward to continuing to support the MARS program.”

The 4th annual FedHealthIT Innovation awards will be held on June 12th, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. This event brings together more than 300 Federal Health leaders from Government and industry to help celebrate and recognize 26 of the top Federal Health programs and the teams behind these innovative efforts in support of Veterans Affairs, Military Health, Health and Human Services, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The event celebrates the programs that are achieving unparalleled access and elevating functional efficiencies through models that are modern, secure, and scalable.