SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Alliance for Medical Research has selected Gregory Belenky, MD, to head its sleep research initiative. He is also being named a research professor at Washington State University, Spokane.

Belenky currently holds the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, and serves as director of the Division of Neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Belenky will be introduced to the community Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2-3 p.m., in the Phase I Classroom Building, Washington State University Spokane, 668 N. Riverpoint Blvd. He will give a brief presentation on his vision for developing the sleep research program in Spokane. Congressman George Nethercutt also will attend the event, which is free and open to the public.

“It has been a major coup to attract a researcher of Dr. Belenky’s stature to Spokane,” said Dennis Dyck, coordinator of the SAMR and associate dean for research at WSU Spokane. “His work in collaboration with the excellent sleep clinics here and with colleagues in Pullman will serve as the core to attract other human and translational sleep researchers to Spokane.”

“The vision for the Sleep Research Initiative is to move beyond the laboratory to study the relationship of sleep to performance in normal and clinical populations going about their everyday lives,” Belenky said.

“There is great demand for this sort of research and very little capacity to conduct it. Two of the four existing labs with this specialty are booked solid,” Belenky said. “The NIH has included the effects of sleep restriction and recovery in normal people on performance as a major target of its funding efforts in sleep in the next five years, and this is the focus of all military sleep research, and research for the Department of Transportation and Department of Justice. We will be highly competitive in funding for this critical research area.”

While there are numerous programs in the country that conduct clinical sleep research on patients with sleep disorders, Belenky said very few labs focus on the effects of sleep on performance primarily in “normals”: people with no known sleep disorder. The sleep research initiative in Spokane will join a select group: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado, and Harvard are the only other institutions with such a focus.

He cited the excellent basic research at WSU Pullman, and the opportunity to collaborate with those researchers as well as the Spokane medical community, as key factors in his decision to join the SAMR.

“We will bring together Jim Krueger and his basic science colleagues at the WSU Pullman, the sleep and human performance researchers coming to WSU Spokane, and the Spokane sleep medicine community to create a full spectrum, integrated program in sleep ranging from basic, through applied, to clinical research,” Belenky said.

During Belenky’s stewardship at WRAIR, the program has grown in national and international stature, producing groundbreaking research and publications in the areas of brain imaging in sleep and sleep deprivation, the performance effects of stimulants and sleep inducing drugs, and the effects of chronic sleep restriction on performance.

He received his MD from Stanford University and a BA in psychology from Yale University. He is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Sleep Research Society, and the European Sleep Research Society, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Sleep Foundation.

Belenky pioneered the development of non-invasive ambulatory sleep/wake monitoring techniques and Palm OS-based performance tests such as the Palm Pilot Psychomotor Vigilance Task, for the first time making possible studies of sleep and performance in normal (and clinical) populations going about their daily lives. He holds several patents on the Sleep Watch, the core of the U.S. Army’s developing Sleep Management System, a tool to enable commanders to effectively manage sleep to sustain performance in the operational environment.

The Spokane Alliance for Medical Research represents collaboration between private and state colleges and universities, the medical health service and research centers in Spokane, Washington, and public and private biotechnology research and development centers and institutes in Spokane and the Inland Northwest. The SAMR received initial funding of $50,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor and $20,000 from INTEC, and another $1.5 million in federal funding is earmarked from the Department of Defense.

The purpose of the SAMR is to conduct competitively funded biomedical research in the Spokane region that builds upon strong, competitively funded, and focused research programs at Northwest Universities or research institutions. Research conducted under auspices of the SAMR is intended to enhance clinical programs ongoing in the Spokane medical community, provide research partnership opportunities for Spokane clinicians, contribute to an enhanced reputation for these selected programs, and provide opportunities for economic development in the Spokane region.

WSU is a partner in the SAMR, and Dyck serves as the SAMR’s coordinator. WSU Spokane is home to a number of health sciences programs in research, teaching, and service.

Dyck said sleep research was selected by the SAMR steering committee as the first focus area because of the unique opportunity to build on and collaborate with a strong team of competitively funded neurosciences researchers who conduct basic research on sleep at Washington State University in Pullman. James Krueger, professor in the college of veterinary medicine, leads that team in examining biochemical regulation of sleep, connections between sleep and infectious disease, and brain organization as it relates to the sleep function.

With more than $150 million in annual research expenditures, WSU is among the nation’s premier research institutions. As part of the university’s extensive research portfolio, researchers examine health science issues ranging from diabetes and the world’s food supply to animal well-being and medication use through the use of state-of-the-art laboratories, clinical studies, and community partnerships.

For additional information on Dr. Belenky and his research click here

Web sites:

Spokane Alliance for Medical Research: www.spokanemedicalresearch.org
WSU Office of Research: www.research.wsu.edu
WSU Spokane Research Programs: www.spokane.wsu.edu/research&service/index.asp
Sleep research at WSU: James Krueger: www.vetmed.wsu.edu/research_vcapp/krueger/krueger.asp