Miami CTSI

CTSI Names 4 New KL2 Scholars and Awards Pilot Grants to 10 UM Faculty


From top row, left to right: Lunthita Duthely, Ed.D., Tali Elfassy, Ph.D., Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., Mario Saporta, M.D., Ph.D., Nicholas Carcioppolo, Ph.D., Lynn Perry, Ph.D. and Daniel Messinger, Ph.D., Eric Mellon, M.D., Ph.D., Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., Natalia Rodriguez, Ph.D., Robert Starke, M.D., Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Brian Marples, Ph,D.

To kick off the renewal of its prestigious five-year award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Miami CTSI has awarded four Mentored Translational Research Scholars Program Awards (KL2) and Pilot Project Awards to a diverse group of 10 faculty from disciplines across the University of Miami.

“We are excited to launch our new round of KL2 and pilot awardees. These team science projects are a great start to our new cycle and we look forward to supporting these translational investigators and many more over the coming months,” said Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., Miami CTSI PI and Director, professor and chair of neurology, and the Olemberg Family Chair of Neurological Disorders at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

KL2 Scholars Program Awards

The CTSI KL2 Scholars Program provides a structured research training environment for junior faculty to acquire the skills and experience needed to become outstanding independent clinical and translational investigators.

Each scholar will receive mentorship as well as have an individualized research and career development plan, experiential training with established faculty, and access to educational programs and supportive resources through the CTSI’s various programs.

The following KL2 scholars were chosen from a total of 10 applicants. Funding was awarded to the best applicants who demonstrated a commitment to a career in clinical and/or translational research and whose proposals are translational and have the highest potential for success. Each will receive 75% salary support as well as $32,500 for research support and travel expenses:

Lunthita Duthely, Ed.D., research assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, will develop a multi-lingual, culturally competent health intervention delivered via mobile phones that seeks to keep women living with HIV engaged in their treatment. Her primary mentor is Steven A. Safren, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

Tali Elfassy, Ph.D., research assistant professor of public health sciences, seeks to improve the knowledge of the epidemiology of incident hypertension and hypertension disparities among U.S. Hispanics. By analyzing population data, she will estimate rates of incident hypertension across Hispanic backgrounds and determine the causes of hypertension disparities. Her primary mentor is Neil Schneiderman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy and neurology, will investigate the mechanisms underlying cognitive benefits in sedentary adults over 55 after an eight-week exercise intervention. Her primary mentor is Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology and public health sciences at the Miller School of Medicine.

Mario Saporta, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, seeks to develop drug treatments for patients with CMT2E, an early onset, severe neuropathy that causes significant functional impairment and reduced quality of life. His primary mentor is Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Miller School of Medicine.

Pilot Awards

The CTSI Pilot Awards support research that is translational, innovative and interdisciplinary. These awards, of $40,000 each, allow investigators to generate preliminary data for a federal grant submission.

The CTSI received a total of 22 applications and eight were funded, representing three awards from the College of Arts and Sciences, one award from the School of Communication and four awards from the Miller School of Medicine. Additionally, some proposals directly address community and health disparities – part of the CTSI’s mission.

Nicholas Carcioppolo, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication studies, will study the effectiveness of an entertainment education intervention using a short film to increase HIV status disclosure among black intimate partners.

Lynn Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, and Daniel Messinger, Ph.D., professor of psychology, pediatrics, electrical and computer engineering, and music engineering, will measure social communication behaviors like smiles and vocalizations of Latino and non-Latino children in different settings to predict clinician and parent perceptions of autism spectrum disorder symptoms (ASD) with the aim of shedding light on the sources of health disparities in ASD diagnosis.

Eric Mellon, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology, will study the use of gadolinium enhanced MRI on an integrated MRI and radiotherapy device to distinguish true tumor progression versus an inflammatory reaction in glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.

Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., assistant professor of urology, will look at the therapeutic role of nitric oxide in regulating the tumor microenvironment of castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, will assess treatment regimens of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in rats and analyze the underlying molecular changes using genomic analysis.

Natalia Rodriguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology, will adapt innovative materials to train community health workers who work with the South Florida farmworker community to educate women on breast cancer and navigate them to low-cost health services for early detection.

Robert Starke, M.D., assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery, will study endothelial cell dysfunction and differentiation in brain aneurysm progression to better understand why aneurysms grow and how their growth might be stopped or reversed.

Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Associate Dean for Therapeutic Innovation and Director of the Center for Therapeutic Innovation, and Brian Marples, Ph,D., Director of Radiobiology and professor of radiation oncology, will investigate whether low-dose radiation therapy and the use of a drug inhibitor can be successfully combined to mitigate and prevent accumulation of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program is overseen by W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., who is also the CTSI’s Co-I and Associate Director. Dr. Dietrich is professor of neurological surgery, neurology and cell biology, scientific director at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery, and senior associate dean for discovery science at the Miller School.

The KL2 Scholars Program is led by the CTSI’s Institutional Career Development Core Principal Investigator Gwendolyn Scott, M.D., professor of pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology. The KL2 program is co-directed by Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., and by Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Rundek is professor of neurology and public health sciences, executive vice chair for research and faculty affairs in the Department of Neurology, scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and Evelyn F. McKnight Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging at the Miller School. Dr. Rundek is also the director of the CTSI’s Masters in Clinical and Translational Investigation. Dr. Fornoni is professor of medicine and molecular and cellular pharmacology at the Miller School and chief of the Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension.

Patricia Avissar is the CTSI Program Administrator for both the KL2 Scholars Program and the Pilot Program. To receive notifications on future awards and all CTSI activities, subscribe the CTSI listserv.

The KL2 Scholars Program is supported by award number KL2TR002737, and the Pilot Program is supported by award number UL1TR002736 – both of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

E-mail a Friend