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With $1.2 million in seed money from the national Centers for Disease Control, Associate Bioengineering Professor Lawrence Thibault is preparing to expand the University's new trauma research laboratory and make the program a "world-class facility." The Laboratories for Injury Research and Prevention will probe all aspects of trauma, including prevention, rehabilitation, insurance and legal aspects, and will draw from several schools in the University. Thibault received the $1.2 million grant this summer, and said he hopes to use the money as a financial base for the labs. Trauma research is a growing field, Thibault said, since physical injuries resulting from accidents cost the nation over $180 billion each year and are the biggest killer of people younger than 45. "Trauma is the national epidemic," he said. "The socioeconomic implications are incredible." Researchers will look at "questions like 'How do you prevent injury?' and 'How do you get people to change their ways?' ," Thibault said. He added that the laboratories will be the first in the world to tie together the broad range of trauma-related issues. Thibault said he expects participation from Wharton School faculty for risk assessment and decision processes, Annenberg School faculty for communication and behavior modification, School of Arts and Sciences faculty for psychology and sociology, in addition to Medical School faculty. Currently, the laboratories are located in Hayden Hall and involve only Engineering and Medical School faculty. The University's team, headed by Thibault, was one of two chosen to receive the Centers for Disease Control grant. It competed against approximately 100 other applications for the agency's Research Program Project Grants. A Wayne State University group claimed the other prize. "We know that people here think [this project] is a good idea and this proves that so do other people," Engineering School Dean Gregory Farrington said. But Thibault's laboratories will need more than the initial grant to support the new facility. Thibault said he hopes "to use a very innovative approach to fundraising" to secure funds for the new center. The facility will need support from the University, he said, but added that he expects much of the money to come from private industry. "The insurance industry, the auto industry, the sports and safety equipment industries and local, state and federal governments are all interested," Thibault said. And the Pennsylvania state legislature is currently considering a 25 cent increase on all automobile insurance -- $5 million which the state would channel into injury prevention research, he said. The judicial system may also be a target of fundraising efforts, after a Michigan judge recently awarded a small amount of punitive damages in a civil suit toward similar research, Thibault said.

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