Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute

Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute at Western Connecticut Health Network 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 Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute includes a team of renowned scientists known for their groundbreaking work and expertise in various research disciplines that include Cancer and Lyme disease. The research institute encourages scientific collaboration/partnerships with other research organizations in an effort to pioneer discovery and foster creative thinking. Research institute's leadership and management team are committed to promoting excellence in research by attracting highly qualified researchers, residents and physicians to the institution.

Modern research facility – Founded in 2009, the research institute’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 – The research institute 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.

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

Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. has held many impressive roles in his life. The Harvard alum has been a tenured IBM physicist; the president of the Hudson Institute, a preeminent national security expert; a lecturer at the United States Army War College; and a world explorer of 74 countries, just to name a few.  The common theme threading the various chapters of his distinguished career together is innate curiosity.

This guiding life principle also informed another important role Rudy has held—that of philanthropist. As a longtime dedicated supporter of Danbury Hospital and later Western Connecticut Health Network, Rudy has played an active and integral role in ensuring the optimal delivery of high-quality patient care. That commitment to community paired with his passion for research recently led Rudy to make a transformational gift to support the expansion and advancement of WCHN’s research efforts. The Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute is a culmination of his nearly decade-long mission to elevate the opportunities WCHN has to conduct innovative translational research that directly benefits and enhances patient care in a multitude of ways.

According to Dr. John Murphy, President and CEO of WCHN, “We are truly grateful to Rudy for his early and avid championing of the research institute as it was essential to its progress and growth. Rudy has truly been an invaluable partner in our quest to build a state-of-the-art research program devoted to supporting scientific advances that can improve the current standard of patient care,” he says. “His expertise has been instrumental in the establishment of and adherence to our mission to perform innovative translational research.”

Research Institute Vision Statement

The research institute's vision is to perform innovative translation research that integrates basic laboratory research, clinical and community-based research to improve the current standard of patient care. The research institute is committed to promoting collaboration and excellence in research while attracting highly qualified residents and physicians to the institution. The research institute focuses on research investigating new mechanisms of cancer development, metabolic diseases and diseases such as Lyme that concern our immediate community. The research institute's vision will serve its goal of improving cancer treatment, new drug development and the discovery of novel biomarkers for early diagnosis of disease.

Eesearch Institute Mission Statement

The research institute seeks to improve the health of the community by engaging in scientific investigation and application of the scientific discovery to the care of patients. By training future healthcare professionals, physicians and medical scientists, the research institute contributes to improving the quality of care delivered to the community both regionally and globally.

Sandra Lobo, PhD
Director of Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute
co-Chair of Scientific Advisory Board

Sandra Lobo

Dr. Sandra Lobo, Ph.D is a skilled researcher with extensive experience in the development, commercialization and launch of new drugs, vaccines and medical device technologies. Dr. Lobo’s research has provided strategic direction for companies in bio-engineering, gene-cloning, human and animal vaccines, and pharmaceuticals. Dr. Lobo earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland, a Masters in Pharmacy from the University of Bombay, and a Bachelor’s in Pharmacy (equivalent to PharmD) from the University of Poona, India. Her key strengths include,

  • Providing scientific input during the development orof pre-clinical research and trials
  • Optimizing brand success in highly competitive environments
  • Aligning and executing activities related to investors, grants and sponsorships
  • Communicating complex scientific information effectively, both written and oral.

Dr. Lobo has presented and authored numerous papers and reviews in key scientific / medical journals. She is a member of the Life Science Alley of Minnesota, and a primary inventor on US patents.

Joann Petrini, PhD, MPH
Executive Director, Innovation and Research
The Bedoukian Endowed Chair for Innovation and Research

Joann Petrini, PhD, MPH, leads teams in clinical, translational, and health outcomes research and innovation at WCHN. Dr. Petrini is also Research Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont, Larner College of Medicine in Burlington, Vermont. She was formerly Director of the Perinatal Data Center at the National March of Dimes Foundation and Chief Science Officer at the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ). Dr. Petrini received her Master’s in Public Health from Yale University and her PhD from New York University. She has published widely in the fields of perinatal epidemiology and public health. Dr. Petrini served as one of 15 members of the Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. She was also selected as the recipient of the 2001 National Young Professional Achievement Award, from the Coalition for Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology.

The Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute is located on 131 West Street, Danbury between Beaver street and Benedict Avenue. The institute is situated at the very end of the Salame Plaza parking lot. Parking is at the front and rear of the building. Visitors will be screened prior to entering the building at the secure main entrance through the glass vestibule.

The WCHN research institute welcomes collaborations, research partnerships and new and exciting research ideas and opportunities. We are grateful for the generosity and support from our donors that have accelerated the discovery and development of breakthroughs in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. Please call us if you are interested in learning more or providing feedback.

Sandra Lobo, Ph.D.

Director, Rudy L. Ruggles Biomedical Research Institute
Phone: (203) 739-8388
Email: sandra.lobo@wchn.org