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Collaborative research teams funded

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - December 8, 2008


New grants intended to promote collaboration between researchers at Storrs and the Health Center have recently been awarded to 11 research teams.

The year-long grants – known as UCHC/Storrs and Regional Campus Incentive Grants, or UCIG – are approximately $50,000 each. They were jointly funded from the research budgets at Storrs and the Health Center, using money derived from indirect costs on extramural grants.

Applications for UCIG funding were peer reviewed by a committee comprising four researchers from Storrs and four from the Health Center. The group was co-chaired by Suman Singha, interim vice president for research and graduate education at Storrs, and Marc Lalande, associate dean for research, planning, and coordination at the Health Center.

The committee received 45 proposals and made 11 awards. Criteria for evaluating the proposals included the potential to attract extramural funding after the current funding expires, the interdisciplinary nature of the project, and the project’s capacity to support the University’s application for a Clinical and Translational Science Award – a National Institutes of Health program intended to speed up the translation of scientific research into practical applications in the medical field.

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Debra Kendall, a member of the review committee, says she was pleased with the response to the request for proposals: “There were many meritorious applications. Some of the ideas may not pan out in the end, but you never know until you try. This grant has given the opportunity to initiate collaborations and test new research directions.”

She adds that many exciting advances in research come at the interface of different fields.

She says it is key that the grants are large enough to enable the research teams to gather sufficient evidence to make sure their projects are feasible and bring them to the point where external funding can be applied for.

Kendall notes that the grant competition comes at a significant time for UConn.

“It’s important that, even in very challenging budget times for us all, the University devoted funds to this new research initiative,” she says. “We cannot be without support in our research – no matter what the time – not at a Research I university. We may have to be more efficient, make more choices, prioritize, but it’s critical that funds have been devoted to the research endeavor.”

The award-winning research teams and their projects are:

A High Throughput Screen (HTS) to Identify Novel Anti-Cancer Agents
Dennis Wright, Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy (PI)
Jennifer Tirnauer, Center for Molecular Medicine, Health Center (Co-PI)

The Mechanism of Phenoty(PI)c Drift in hES Cells
Rachel O'Neill, Molecular & Cell Biology (PI)
Brenton Graveley, Genetics & Developmental Biology, Health Center (Co-PI)
Theodore Rasmussen, Animal Science, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (Co-PI)
Yufeng Wu, Computer Science & Engineering, School of Engineering (Co-PI)
Ion Mandoiu, Computer Science & Engineering, School of Engineering (Co-PI)

Genes and Environment: Copper and Ascorbate in Frail Elderly Men
Elizabeth Eipper, Molecular, Microbial, & Structural Biology, Health Center (PI)
Jonathan Covault, Psychiatry, Health Center (Co-PI)
Anne Kenny, Medicine, Health Center (Co-PI)
Jane Kerstetter, Allied Health Sciences, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (Co-PI)
Richard Mains, Neuroscience, Health Center (Co-PI)

Osteoblasts: Immune Responses in Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Francisco Sylvester, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Health Center (PI)
Juan Salazar, Pediatrics, Infectious Disease, Health Center (Co-PI)

Phase Transformations to Control Morphology and Cell Behavior in Polymer Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering
Jon Goldberg, Reconstructive Sciences, Health Center (PI)
Robert Weiss, Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering, School of Engineering (Co-PI)

The Effect of Psychotropic Medication Dosing on Symptom Control for Inmates Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
Deborah Shelton, Nursing Instruction & Research, School of Nursing (PI)
Megan Ehret, Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy (Co-PI)

A Behavioral Intervention for Reducing Obesity
Nancy Petry, Medicine, Health Center (PI)
Rafael Perez-Escamilla, Nutritional Sciences, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (Co-PI)
Linda Pescatello, Kinesiology, Neag School of Education (Co-PI)
William White, Cardiology Center, Health Center (Co-PI)

Stem Cell Database
Craig Nelson, Molecular & Cell Biology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (PI)
Martin Schiller, Molecular, Microbial & Structural Biology, Health Center (Co-PI)
Michael Gryk, Molecular, Microbial & Structural Biology, Health Center (Co-PI)

Computational Modeling of Mucosal Injury Reviewer to Cancer Therapy
Rajesh Lalla, Oral Health & Diagnostic Sciences, Health Center (PI)
Ranjan Srivastava, Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering, School of Engineering (Co-PI)
Leslie Loew, Cell Biology, Health Center (Co-PI)
Douglas Peterson, Oral Health & Diagnostic Sciences, Health Center (Co-PI)

Black Raspberry Components as Anti-Inflammatory Agents for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Charles Giardina, Molecular & Cell Biology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (PI)
Daniel Rosenberg, Molecular Medicine, Health Center (Co-PI)

Novel Photoacoustic/Ultrasound Imaging System for Non-invasive Ovarian Cancer Detection and Characterization
Qing Zhu, Electrical & Computer Engineering, School of Engineering (PI)
Molly Brewer, Cancer Center, Health Center (Co-PI)

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