Steen-Burrell Receives "Young Investigator Translational Research" Award

One-year funding will further surgery fellow's efforts to make blood clots more visible May 15, 2014

May 15, 2014

Kady-Ann Steen-Burrell, Ph.D., a 30-year-old postdoctoral fellow in Duke's Department of Surgery, has been awarded this year"s Young Investigator Translational Research Skill Development Award from the Center for Thrombotic and Hemostatic Disorders (CTHD).

Steen-Burrell will use the award to advance a project to make blood clots more visible so they can be found before they cause problems. 

"Current detection methods such as ultrasound and angiography require knowing where the clot might be and provide only indirect evidence of a clot, such as gross vessel wall thickening and obstruction of blood flow," says Steen-Burrell. Her goal is to prove in the lab and in animal studies whether specific RNA aptamer molecules with a fluorescence signal will bind to newly forming clots, and whether using antidotes to reverse the binding will make the clots easier to detect through differential imaging.  

"My goal is to become an independent investigator focused on translational research for cardiovascular disease, and this project will help make that possible," Steen-Burrell said.  

Steen-Burrell, who completed a Ph.D. in Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012, says the project will introduce her to skills and techniques such as whole blood cytometry, small animal surgery, thrombosis models and in vivo imaging.  

The Young Investigator award provides $40,000 in funding for one year. 

Past awardee, Dr. Shahid Nimjee, with the division of neurosurgery, was able to complete a project exploring a reversible anti-platelet drug used to treat victims of stroke.  But he said that the award offers much more than simple funding for moving a possible treatment from the laboratory into clinical trials. 

"When you are a young investigator, an award like this is a pivotal point to mold you into the type of research you want to be," Nimjee said.  "Mentors help."

Steen-Burrell recognizes the importance of mentorship and is delighted to be working with Dr. Bruce Sullenger, the Joseph and Dorothy Beard Professor of Surgery and director of the Duke Translational Research Institute.  She notes that the multidisciplinary research environment of the Sullenger lab is ideally suited for translating diagnostic tools from the benchtop to the clinic. 

"Dr. Sullenger has previous experience with translating therapies to clinical trials," Steen-Burrell says. "He will be an invaluable resource for my career development."

The Duke Translational Medicine Institute created the Center for Thrombotic and Hemostatic Disorders Consortium in 2012 with funding from the National Institutes of Health Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (1U54-HL112307).