Miami CTSI

CTSI Awards Pilot Grants to 5 UM Miller School of Medicine Faculty and 1 UM/UNC Collaboration


Miami CTSI Pilot Awardees, from left to right: Michael Ivan, Corinna Levine, Luisa Cimmino, Jennifer Manuzak, and Yelena Drexler

From left to right: Michael Ivan, Corinna Levine, Luisa Cimmino, Jennifer Manuzak, and Yelena Drexler

The CTSI Pilot Awards provide early-career investigators $40,000 to develop preliminary data for an extramural grant submission. The awards support investigators who are working on translational, innovative and interdisciplinary research. This year, a new Collaborative CTSA Pilot between UM and UNC Chapel Hill was awarded.

Pilot Grants to Miller School of Medicine Faculty

The CTSI received a total of 28 applications and five were funded to faculty from the Miller School of Medicine. Their proposals directly addressed community and health disparities, which are critical to the Miami CTSI’s mission. Two pilot awards were jointly funded with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

  • Luisa Cimmino, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, will study disease resistance and relapse after chemotherapy in patients with leukemia. Given the prevalence of a TET2 loss-of-function mutation in these patients, targeted restoration of TET2 activity could provide a viable alternative therapeutic strategy to improve disease outcomes.
  • Yelena Drexler, M.D., assistant professor in the department of medicine-nephrology, will look at rare glomerular kidney diseases affecting diverse patient populations, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics. She will investigate whether a protein involved in cholesterol metabolism, apolipoprotein M (APOM), can be used to predict the course of the disease and to develop new therapies to treat patients with glomerular diseases.
  • Michael Ivan, M.D., M.B.S., assistant professor in the department of neurosurgery, will focus on understanding the importance of ethnicity in different cancer types as well as the correlation of genetic markers that will help in developing improved and more targeted treatment plans. Understanding the difference within each group will help in the development of optimal treatment plans.
  • Corinna Levine, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology, will study chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), which is a debilitating inflammatory disease. She will develop a profile of CRS in the community. Her goal is defining CRS health disparities and identifying which factors predict response to treatment. Successful prediction of treatment response will help clinicians personalize CRS care.
  • Jennifer Manuzak, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of pediatrics, will focus on examining a potential factor that may contribute to enhanced risk of HIV disease pathogenesis. A better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying HIV pathogenesis will allow for the development of more effective treatments and interventions that can be used to reduce the risk of comorbidities and mortality in this population.

Collaborative CTSA Pilot between UM and UNC Chapel Hill

UM faculty member Nevis FregienAn exciting new collaborative funding mechanism between UM and UNC Chapel Hill allowed for the CTSA Pilot award to be granted. Each CTSA funded half of the $50,000 pilot project. The funds can be used for any research purpose other than faculty salary support, including laboratory supplies, study participant expenses or support for pre/postdoctoral students, technicians and other research personnel. The Collaborative CTSA Pilot is designed to encourage and facilitate novel clinical and translational research across organizational boundaries.

  • UM: Nevis Fregien, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of cell biology.
  • UNC: Lawrence Ostrowski, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of medicine-child health.

The project focuses on Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD), which is a rare genetic disease caused by mutations in genes required for motile cilia. The goal is to develop a method and cell line that can be used to test and identify compounds that will promote read-through of the stop codons and allow complete synthesis of proteins required for functional cilia. This method can be used to rapidly screen many compounds rapidly for activity specifically in lung ciliated cells. Results from this project will be applicable to other diseases caused by stop mutations, particularly those affecting the lung or other ciliated tissues.

The Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program is overseen by W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., who is also Co-I and Associate Director of the CTSI. 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. Patricia Avissar is the CTSI Program Administrator for the Pilot Program. To receive notifications on future awards and all CTSI activities, subscribe to the CTSI Newsletter.

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