NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The billion dollar University Medical Center and the equally as expansive new V-A Medical Center both sit in the city's bio-district, which some in the medical and economic development community believe the area is ripe for even more growth, and has the potential to be known for ground-breaking specialized health care in areas like cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
The 1,500-acre district includes areas of downtown and Mid-City.
"When you think about the Bio-District it really spans from Tulane Medical Center to the LCRC, the cancer research building, the Bio-Innovation Center, the LSU Health Sciences Center, the new University Medical Center, and now the VA, so it's a tremendous investment in terms of just capital and people and advanced technology," said Dr. Steve Nelson, dean of LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.
He said the Bio-District already benefits medical education.
"As the dean of the medical school it's going to help me attract the best students," Nelson stated.
"So to some degree we've now built the stadium, now about getting in the quarterback and the offensive line to build the team," said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc.
They think the area has all of the components needed to become a destination for certain types of healthcare for the seriously ill.
"I think it's up to us to determine what's the most likely and best yield thing," said Nelson.
Nelson said he hopes New Orleans can become a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
"There is no NCI designated cancer center between Houston and Birmingham, so we sit geographically in a perfect place to develop such a thing," he said.
There is already a cancer research building in the Bio-District that involves a joint venture with LSU, Tulane, Xavier and Ochsner. But the NCI designation would be a boon.
"It's been estimated that 6,000 people from the state of Louisiana go outside of this state every year looking for cancer care. I mean, to me this is something that we should focus on to get support and financial support, not only the public's support but this I think is within our reach," said Dr. Nelson.
Hecht likes the idea of the area working towards being known for top-notch research and care for age-related brain diseases.
"I think there's real opportunity for us in neuro-degenerative diseases, one because it's the great growth diseases unfortunately for our nation as population as the population over 65 doubles by 2050 but also because nobody has really cornered that market," said Hecht.
The Bio-District has already spawned economic development, but even more would be anticipated if the district continues to expand and attract research and federal grant dollars.
"I think we need to look at our bio-district on a more regional basis…considering ourselves collectively and marketing ourselves collectively," said Hecht.
He also said that as a singular opportunity there probably is nothing in the region over the next 10 years that will match opportunities in the bio-medical health areas.