About the Institute

Making new discoveries possible - Western Connecticut Health Network’s (WCHN) Biomedical Research Institute (BRI) aims at advancing the health of our community by performing innovative translational research with the goal of improving the current standard of patient care.  The Institute includes a team of renowned scientists known for their groundbreaking work and expertise in various research disciplines that include Cancer and Lyme disease. BRI encourages scientific collaboration/partnerships with other research organizations in an effort to pioneer discovery and foster creative thinking. BRI’s leadership and management team are committed to promoting excellence in research by attracting highly qualified researchers, residents and physicians to the institution.

BRI staff

Modern research facility -  Founded in 2009, BRI’s 17,000-square-facility houses state-of-the-art equipment for basic and translational research and complements ongoing clinical research, including clinical trials and epidemiologic studies, being conducted at our three partner hospitals at Danbury, Norwalk and New Milford. Our open style laboratory structure encourages an environment of collaborative research where our scientists with expertise in a myriad of fields, share resources and knowledge across institutional and disciplinary lines.

A new era of drug discovery begins - BRI is currently focused on research investigating mechanisms of cancer development and diseases such as Lyme that concern our immediate community.

The Pathology Research Group headed by Dr. Paul Fiedler is working on the development of a new diagnostic blood test for Lyme disease. This would lead to early detection of the disease and thus allow for early therapeutic intervention for prevention of the progression of Lyme’s disease. The assay is currently being validated using patient samples and was featured on CT NEWS8 at wtnh.com. The group is also working on a project to identify the differences in the microbiome in liquid colonic stool vs. solid stool that may be a better representative of bowel disease to accurately predict the presence of adenomas (a pre-cancerous growth).

The Laboratory for Translational Medicine is headed by Dr. John Martignetti, the most recent addition to our team. Dr. Martignetti’s hire has jump started our efforts to build all the necessary components of a Core program such as a local IRB-approved Biorepository and genomics lab to support research programs aimed at biomarker discovery, validation or development of novel therapeutics. He has assembled his own research group here at the institute and will be collaborating with Mount Sinai Health System to establish a state-of-the-art precision medicine program linking gynecologic/oncology patient clinical care and genomic information to improve treatment and surveillance. The precision medicine genomics-based studies will help develop patient-tailored prognostic and surveillance biomarkers including circulating tumor DNA for gynecologic and pancreatic cancer and exosomal noncoding RNA profiles for pancreatic cancer prognosis.

The Pancreatic Cancer Research group is led by Dr. Richard Frank who is interested in an early diagnostic to help screen for high risk pancreatic cancer patients. His research project involves the analysis of exosomal noncoding RNA profiles in pancreatic cancer patients and the study of their role as a prognostic biomarker for the disease. Another pilot project will be initiated in collaboration with Dr. Martignetti to screen for mutations in the KRAS gene in circulating DNA in pancreatic cancer patients as a potential diagnostic.

Other projects at BRI include research on metabolic diseases, detection of early colorectal cancer and multiple myeloma.

Patient benefits of biomedical research

The potential patient benefits of our research include the development of:

  • New drugs and less toxic therapies that target cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue
  • More effective personalized drugs based on an individuals’ unique proteomic and genomic signature
  • New diagnostic techniques using protein biomarkers to identify people who are at risk or who are likely to resist certain treatment regimens