2008-2009 Pilot Project Awards

The awardees and their projects are:

  Principal Investigator Project Title/Brief Description

Soman Abraham, PhD
Professor, Departments of Pathology, Immunology Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Novel Treatment for Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) represent a significant burden to the US healthcare system, with estimated costs exceeding $1.6 billion/year. New therapies for UTI are sought in light of rising antimicrobial resistance and the failure of traditional antimicrobial therapies to reduce the rate of recurrent UTIs, presently 25-30% of women after their acute infections.


Recent findings indicate that specific non-antimicrobial cAMP modulators can expel uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), the leading agent of UTI, from its hiding place within the bladder epithelium, thus dramatically attenuating the first UTI and diminishing UPEC chronic persistence. Our plans are to develop an optimized therapeutic cAMP modulator-antibiotic combination to limit urinary tract infection progression and chronic bacterial persistence using a drug candidate selection system.


Patrick Seed, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Rowena Dolor, MD, MHS, Assistant Professor, Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine
Emmanuel (Chip) Walter, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, General Pediatrics and Pediatrics Infectious Diseases


Smita Nair, PhD
Assistant Professor, Division of Experimental Surgery, Department of Surgery
Selective Modulation of Activated T-cells by RNA-transfected Dendritic Cells to Enhance Tumor Immunity

This project uses methods already developed by the investigators to collect autologous cells from melanoma patients, grow them into dendritic cells, the cells which present foreign antigens to the body's T-cells to stimulate them to produce immunity against the tumor, and enhance that response.


The special advance that this project will test is the use of additional RNA molecules to stimulate growth of these T-cells that have been exposed to tumor antigen. The overall goal of this program is to develop localized administration (in lieu of systemic administration) of RNA-loaded dendritic cells to regional sites of tumor in hope of both presenting tumor antigen to and stimulate growth of tumor-fighting T-cells and provide stimulation that will promote longer-term and more avid T-cell persistence. The first aim of the project is to generate RNA encoding GITR ligand, a ligand that stimulates proliferation of the resident T-cell when bound. A template for an anti-human CTLA-4 RNA is also being sought in hopes of charging the cultured autologous patient cells with a second RNA to cause presentation of a second "on" switch via the injected dendritic cells. The second aim is to compare the function of dendritic cells transfected with each stimulatory RNA in comparison to that achieved using dendritic cells transfected with the tumor antigens alone.


Scott Pruitt, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery


Nirmala Ramanujam, PhD
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Intraoperative Optical Imaging to Reduce the Re-excision Rate of Breast Conserving Surgery

The goal of this project is to use optical spectroscopy to rapidly create a molecular and pathological profile of the tissue margins to determine if a margin still contains cancerous tissues. The long-term goal is to develop and commercialize a device which can be used intraoperatively to determine if additional tissue needs to be removed, thus reducing the need for additional surgeries.


Lee Wilke, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery
Joseph Geradts, MD, Professor of Pathology
Bercedis Peterson PhD, Associate Research Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics


James Reynolds, PhD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, Assistant Professor of Surgery
Use of an S-nitrosylating Agent to Optimize Kidney Obtainment and Preservation for Transplant

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the US constitutes a significant health issue with an incidence rate approaching 1,500 per 1,000,000. While kidney transplantation is the optimal treatment, the demand for transplantable organs far exceeds the availability. Several factors influence the quality of transplantable organs - including the method of procurement and organ preservation ex-vivo. Both factors are associated with and exacerbated by reduced kidney blood flow.


It is expected that the utilization of a vasoactive-agent during both the procurement and preservation of transplantable organs will result in a beneficial effect. The goal of this project is to develop s-nitrosothiol-based therapies that will improve outcomes of transplant recipients and of living donors, and increase the number of viable kidneys available for transplant. The project will conduct outcome-based testing of this novel therapeutic intervention.


Eric DeMaria, MD, Chief of Endosurgery & Director of Bariatic Surgery Center, Chief-General Surgery, DRH, Vice Chair, Network General Surgery
Bradley Collins, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery/Division of Transplantation
Jonathan Stamler, MD, George Bath Geller Professor for Research in Cardiovascular Diseases & Professor of Medicine and of Biochemistry
Paul Kuo, MD, Professor of Surgery


Cynthia Toth, MD
Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering
Spectral Domain Optical Coherence Tomography for Pediatric Imaging and Surgical Guidance

Our goal is to develop retinal spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SDOCT) imaging to improve diagnosis and guide surgery in pediatric eyes. This project will determine the optimized pediatric SDOCT imaging system, create infrastructure to manage pediatric SDOCT images, and develop automated image processing algorithms for rapid turnaround of SDOCT images.


Joseph Izatt, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
David Wallace, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology & Pediatrics
Sharon Freedman, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Pediatrics
Cecil Charles, PhD, Associate Professor of Radiology