2007-2008 Pilot Project Awards

The awardees and their projects are:

Principal Investigator Project Title/Brief Description


Sally Kornbluth, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Vice Dean for the Basic Sciences
Novel Cytochrome c-mimetic agents for brain tumor therapy

Our aims are to characterize the target, specificity, and potency of lead apoptosis-inducing compounds identified in our preliminary focused library screening, optimize them by combinatorial derivatization and evaluate the most potent and specific lead compounds for their antitumor efficacy in animal models and xenografts of medullobalstoma and glioblastoma.

Francis Ali-Osman, D.Sc. Associate Director, Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center
Henry Friedman, M.D. James B. Powell, Jr. Professor of Neuro-Oncology


Daniel T. Laskowitz, MD
Associate Professor; Department of Medicine (Neurology), Neurobiology, Anesthesiology
Exploratory Investigational New Drug Application for Phase 0 Human Clinical Trial of a Novel Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury

The goals of this project are to synthesize, purify, and modify a novel peptide (ApoE-1410) derived from the receptor-binding domain of apoE protein that possesses strong anti-inflammatory activity and neuroprotective activity in vitro and in the setting of experimentally induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). Additional goals include the conduct of appropriate pre-clinical toxicity studies and submission of an integrated IND package to the FDA to support a single-dose study in man.

Michael P. Vitek, Ph.D. Associate Research Professor, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine


Kam W. Leong, PhD
Professor of Department of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Department of Surgery, Director of Bioengineering Initiative in Nanomedicine
Oral Delivery of Aptamers

The overall objective of this proposal is to develop an effective oral delivery system for aptamers. Aptamers used in this study will be formulated against an anticoagulant target commonly found in blood, to allow monitoring of aptamer absorption and to demonstrate bioavailability and efficacy.

Thomas L. Ortel, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Hemostasis & Thrombosis Center


Richard C. Becker, M
Professor of Medicine, Divisions of Cardiovascular Medicine and Hematology, Director, Cardiovascular Thrombosis Center, Duke Clinical Research Institute
Antidote-Controlled Platelet Inhibition using RNA Aptamer Technology: A Bench-to-Bedside Development Program for the Controlled Regulation of Von Willebrand Factor

The overall goal of our proposed research is to develop a safe, reversible and clinically translatable specific anti-platelet agent that inhibits thrombus formation.

Bruce A. Sullenger, Ph.D. Joseph and Dorothy Beard Professor of Experimental Surgery, Director of Research, Duke Translational Research Institute, Chief, Division of Experimental Surgery


Farshid Guilak, PhD
Professor of Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Director of Orthopaedic Research, Director, Duke Center for Regenerative Medicine
Stem cell therapies for joint resurfacing

The goal of this study is to develop a living tissue-engineered joint replacement from adult stem cells, derived via liposuction from subcutaneous fat, in combination with an engineered biomaterial scaffold to form a cartilage-bone composite to replace the entire surface of the hip joint.

Steven Olson, M.D. Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chief - Section of Orthopaedic Trauma, Chair - Perioperative Executive Committee
Robert Clark, Ph.D. Thomas Lord Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering, Senior Associate Dean, Pratt School of Engineering, Director, Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Material Systems
Kam Leong, Ph.D. Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery, Director of Bioengineering Initiative in Nanomedicine


Smita Nair, PhD
Assistant Professor, Immunotherapy in Cancer and AIDS
Enhancing Tumor Immune Responses through OX40 Activation

The main goal of this project is to isolate human RNA aptamers that bind and activate human OX40, a member of the tumor-necrosis factor receptor family and a positive costimulatory molecule expressed on activated T cells, to enhance tumor immunotherapy.

Bruce Sullenger, Ph.D. Joseph and Dorothy Beard Professor of Experimental Surgery, Director of Research, Duke Translational Research Institute, Chief, Division of Experimental Surgery
John Sampson, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Surgery, Assistant Professor of Pathology


Christopher Lascola, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Departments of Radiology and Neurobiology, Brain Imaging and Analysis Center
Molecular Magnetic Resonance Imaging of HSP90 in Cancer

The aim of this project is to develop a novel molecular magnetic resonance imaging strategy for non-invasive diagnostic visualization of cancer and precancerous lesions (currently undetectable using conventional imaging methods) utilizing probes selective for HSP 90.

Timothy A.J. Haystead Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Center for Chemical Biology


Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD
James B. Duke Professor of Medicine, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Developing Novel Beta-Blockers for Heart Failure

The objectives of this project are to 1) identify and develop novel antagonists for the beta-adrenergic receptor that specifically activate cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic pathways in the heart; and 2) test in vivo efficacy of these novel receptor blockers in experimental heart failure compared to traditional beta-adrenergic receptor blockers in animal models.

Howard A. Rockman, M.D. Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
Eric J. Toone, Ph.D. Professor of Chemistry


Nirmala Ramanujam, PhD
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Optical Surveillance of Surgical Margins in Patients Undergoing Breast Conserving Surgery for Cancer

The long-term goal of the translational team is to develop and commercialize an optical device which will reduce the frequency of breast cancer re-excision surgery and thereby reduce the risk of local-regional recurrence in patients with invasive and in-situ breast malignancy.

Lee Wilke, M.D. Assistant Professor of Surgery
Joseph Geradts, M.D. Professor of Pathology


Stephen W. Smith, PhD
Professor, Departments: Biomedical Engineering, Radiology, Medical Physics
3D Ultrasound scanner for combined diagnosis and therapy of stroke

The goal of this research is the development of a real time 3D ultrasound scanner with a factor of 10 improvement in spatial resolution compared to transcranial sonogrpahy, dedicated to the diagnosis of cerebral ischemic stroke as well as the ultrasound enhancement of thrombolytic (clotbuster) therapy for victims of ischemic stroke.

Daniel T. Laskowitz, M.D. Assistant Professor Anesthesiology & Neurobiology Director, Neurovascular Laboratories