Duke, UNC Team Up for Translational Science Research

Duke and UNC CTSAs Award First Pilot Grants for Collaborative Translational Research Projects

January 8, 2015

The Duke University Translational Medicine Institute (DTMI) and the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute have awarded the first round of $50,000 translational research pilot grants to four teams with investigators from both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke.

The grants are part of an effort to promote inter-institutional collaborations that can turn basic scientific discoveries into advances in patient care. Such collaborations can help accelerate the pace of research by granting more investigators expanded access to resources, expertise, and patient populations.

According to Jennifer Li, MD, co-principal investigator for Duke’s CTSA, the variety of scientific disciplines covered by the applications was stunning.

“The proposals ranged from pre-clinical to outcomes research and covered a wide range of human health, from children to the elderly, mental health to genetics,” she said. “The science was strong, innovative, and very collaborative, with a nice meld of expertise from both schools, which is what we wanted to nurture.”

Although the original plan was to fund only two projects, the joint review team was so impressed by the strength of the applicant pool that they returned to their respective schools and asked for additional funding. As a result, four of the 27 grants were funded. Awardees from UNC include investigators from the School of Medicine and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and awardees from Duke include investigators from the School of Medicine and Pratt School of Engineering.

“It was a beautiful thing to review so many outstanding proposals from UNC and Duke investigators working together,” said John Buse, MD, PhD, deputy director of NC TraCS, UNC's CTSA. “The four proposals selected were exceptional. I hope the other 23 teams continue to work together as I am sure that most will provide important results and many opportunities for funding.”

The four projects are listed below:

 Daniel Gonzalez and Christoph Hornick; Martina Gentzsch and Dawn Bowles; Charles Gersbach and Aravind Asokan; Scott Magness and John Rawls.

Pictured above, clockwise from top left:  Daniel Gonzalez and Christoph Hornick; Martina Gentzsch and Dawn Bowles; Charles Gersbach and Aravind Asokan; Scott Magness and John Rawls.

Project Title: In Vivo Genome Editing with the CRISPR/Cas9 System Using Novel Muscle-Tropic AAV Vectors

Aravind Asokan, PhD, Associate Professor, UNC School of Medicine
Charles Gersbach, PhD, Assistant Professor, Duke Pratt School of Engineering

 

Project Title: CFTR Therapeutics for Heart Disease: Repurposing Established Drugs and Identifying New Ones
Martina Gentzsch, PhD, Assistant Professor, UNC School of Medicine

Dawn Bowles, PhD, Assistant Professor, Duke School of Medicine

 

Project Title: Sildenafil Exposure and Safety in Premature Infants

Daniel Gonzalez, PharmD, PhD, Assistant Professor, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

Christoph Hornik, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Duke School of Medicine

 

Project Title: High-throughput in vitro physiology for the human intestinal epithelium

Scott Magness, PhD, Associate Professor, UNC School of Medicine

John Rawls, PhD, Associate Professor, Duke School of Medicine

 

UNC and Duke are both members of an elite consortium of institutions in the CTSA program, which was created to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The CTSA program is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).