New medical research hubs are popping up in the Valley.
As a globally focused ophthalmologist and retina specialist, Dr. Robin Ross spent years traveling to West Africa, Liberia and Brazil, training doctors in areas with limited resources on methods to eliminate preventable blindness. But when it came to creating software that could deliver that training to other eye specialists and students in far-off corners of the world, Ross’s Global Retina Institute settled on Phoenix as the best place to develop its classroom-ready simulators.
“Global Retina Institute’s focus is on ophthalmic conditions that lack existing treatments,” Ross explains. “Expertise, innovation mindset, philanthropy and growth were key central drivers in choosing Phoenix.”
GRI is not alone in that choice. More clinical research facilities are popping up in the Valley, including U.S. Dermatology Partners’ new hub in Downtown Phoenix, Medical Dermatology Specialists, and Centricity Research in Mesa, focusing on flu and COVID variants. If a new bipartisan proposal, House Bill 2486, passes this year, Phoenix could even become home to research facilities studying the effects of natural psilocybin mushrooms (the Arcadia district’s Daytryp Health clinic, which currently offers ketamine-assisted therapy for depression, has already called dibs).
Phoenix was a “natural fit” for Medical Dermatology Specialists’ research, according to founder Dr. Lindsay Ackerman, who cites the center’s proximity to other affiliated practices like Southwest Skin Specialists and the Beatrice Keller Clinic as a key reason behind the choice. “In addition, the broad demographic population serviced by MDS allows patients of every walk of life to access treatments that might otherwise be out of reach,” she says. The center provides treatment for both common and rare skin cancers as well as procedural dermatology to correct visible skin defects or scarring (see below).
Ross also points to the ability to collaborate with other companies innovating in the global health arena, like Scottsdale telemedicine firm Global Med, as a draw. For 2023, GRI plans on opening an Ophthalmology Simulation Training Center to begin training U.S. and international technicians and doctors on diagnostics and surgery.
“The growing tech vibe here is an incredible gem,” Ross says. “And that brings both innovation and philanthropic opportunity.”
Current Research in the Valley
Medical Dermatology Specialists
The Downtown Phoenix center is exploring less invasive alternatives to biopsy for diagnosing inflammatory skin diseases and skin cancer, and personalizing treatments by looking at the molecular makeup of the patient’s specific disease state, “rather than just treating a disease by name,” says founder Dr. Lindsay Ackerman.
Global Retina Institute
Recent clinical research studies at this North Phoenix facility have focused on developing a drug to treat age-related macular degeneration and demodex blepharitis, a “dry eye” disease that Dr. Robin Ross says affects up to 30 percent of adults.
The Mesa center was formed to study new varieties of vaccines that target both influenza and COVID-19, as well as vaccines for other respiratory viruses. Head researcher Dr. Kenneth Boren says the center is presently working on a new investigational drug to treat polycystic kidney disease, which it’s currently offering to volunteers diagnosed with the condition (compensation: up to $2,035).