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November 25, 2008



Apologies for the alphabet soup in the headline. For newcomers, UMC is United Medical Center and CEO stands for Courageous-soul-who-takes-on-the Enormous-challenge-of-leading-the Only-hospital-East-of-the Anacostia. That man is Frank Delisi, whose first day was Friday. We stopped by this morning to see what he’s accomplished in his brief tenure.


Frank replaces interim CEO Gary Rowe, whose stint was always meant as temporary crisis management following the near collapse of the hospital and subsequent sale to the Specialty Hospitals of America. Frank likened Gary to an ER doc, brought in to stop the bleeding of cash. Now Frank says he’ll focus on improving outcomes and addressing community needs well documented in the RAND report, a breakthrough study of healthcare quality in Washington. The hospital has made significant strides in less than a year, earning plaudits from Mayor Fenty and the City Council, who agreed to kick in $30M last year, creating a public/private partnership. Frank already has a leg up on working within a tight budget: He has six kids back home (including two in college.)


Just as we arrived today, Frank was wrapping up his first round of meetings with senior staff, and tomorrow he begins “town halls” with each department. He’s already interacted with the locals as well. On Saturday, he line danced at a Ward 8 health fair to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle. (We guess that’s how they do things in Chicago, where Frank spent the last three years as CEO of Lincoln Park hospital.) Some of his priorities include making UMC’s specialties reflect the needs of the community. That means becoming a regional player in diabetes management, smoking cessation, and wound care. Originally from Pittsburgh, Frank says he bleeds “black and gold.” He might want to mention that to the wound care division.

Curing Cancer with Gold

We’re always amazed at what our biotech friends are up to, like CytImmune Sciences, which is attempting to revolutionize cancer treatment through nanomedicine (repairs at the molecular level). We recently visited the CEO, Dr. Larry Tamarkin, at his Rockville office to hear how the 20-year-old company is planning its international phase II human clinical trials. It looks purple, but Larry is holding a bottle of gold nanoparticles (the bling of biotech). CytImmune’s lead drug compound, Aurimune, is recombinant human tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF), a toxic agent with known anti-cancer properties that is bound to the surface of colloidal gold nanoparticles cloaked with polyethylene glycol. That may sound like gibberish, but preclinical studies show that when injected into the blood stream, this bling avoids healthy organs and targets tumors instead.


A Long Island-native, Larry was a research scientist at NIH and head of the Psychoneuroimmunology Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, before leaving to start a diagnostic company measuring hormones of our immune. The successful research product component of CytImmune was sold in 2005 to redirect new money to fund the company’s current product. When not working, Larry likes to bike along the Potomac, play tennis, and watch political talk shows. Nanomedice has not been able to develop a cure yet for the latter.

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