Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania


About Penn SRP Center

Message from the Director

Ian A. Blair, PhD, Director, Penn SRP CenterThe University of Pennsylvania Superfund Research and Training Program (Penn SRP) Center is driven by community-based concerns of asbestos hazardous waste.

The Penn-SRP arose because of the interaction of Penn’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center [Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET)] Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) with the local community in Ambler, PA, who live close to one of the largest asbestos Superfund sites in the country.  This resulted in the development of the environmental science and biomedical research projects in direct response to concerns of the local community.  The highly interactive projects then formed the basis for establishing the Penn SRP Center as another component of Penn’s CEET. 

This responds directly to the mission of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that “As specified in the SRP Strategic Plan, the SRP seeks to improve relevance through encouraging applicants to design problem-based, solution-oriented research to address the needs of its primary stakeholders (e.g., Superfund-related agencies, as well as the individuals and communities living near sites impacted by hazardous substances). Hence, applicants are encouraged to engage stakeholders as they develop research projects in order to identify critical gaps in knowledge for which basic research is needed. Furthermore, applicants are encouraged to develop community engagement research projects to address any one of the above mandates.”  Asbestos is also one of the NIEHS suggested research areas of interest to the SRP.  Therefore, the Penn SRP Center will foster problem-based, solution-oriented research related to the theme of asbestos fate, exposure, remediation, and adverse health effects.

Our research will have relevance to both the SRP sister Superfund agencies – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).  In view of the focus on biomarkers for personalization of asbestos risk, and their potential use to improve human health in the community, Dr. Penning as Director of the CEET invited Dr. Blair (who is currently Director of the CEET Translational Biomarker Core) to become Director of the Penn SRP Center.  Thus, formation of this new Center serves to highlight how NIEHS Core Centers can change their role to engage their local communities and lead to creative and significant large scale interdisciplinary research opportunities.  The community of primary interest to the Penn SRP is surrounded and potentially impacted by the BoRit EPA region 3 Superfund site, which is located in the Ambler Borough, Upper Dublin and Whitpain townships.  This community has a long history of impact from hazardous asbestos waste and we hope that the Penn SRP Center will have a significant impact on addressing the concerns of the community.