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Leadership for all administrative research units serving the research enterprise at UAB. OVPRED oversees Core Facilities, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and Institional Review Board.

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Electronic submission of funding applications and compliance forms for future research initiatives.

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The nexus for UAB innovation, entrepreneurial educational models, applied research, and management of intellectual property.

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Presentations and general information related to effective grant writing.

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UAB is committed to the development and success of outstanding postdoctoral scientists.

Conflict of Interest Review Board (CIRB)

Charged with the ongoing development of policies and procedures related to conflicts of interest in sponsored research, review of disclosures of financial interests submitted by investigators, and the development of conflict of interest management plans.

Research News

UAB awarded $19.31 million to lead national study on chronic hypertension in pregnancy
UAB awarded $19.31 million to lead national study on chronic hypertension in pregnancy
Best of 2014 2Sixteen clinical centers and 30 hospitals will enroll up to 5,700 pregnant women to evaluate the benefits and harms of pharmacologic treatment of mild chronic hypertension in pregnancy.

Alan tita current2013Alan TitaThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Department of Biostatistics have been awarded a $19.31 million R01 grant by the National Institutes of Health’s Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to coordinate the most comprehensive study of chronic hypertension in pregnancy ever undertaken.

The Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy Project (CHAP) is a multicenter, randomized trial which will enroll between 4,700 and 5,700 pregnant women during the next six years with a primary aim to evaluate the benefits and potential harms of pharmacologic treatment of mild chronic hypertension in pregnancy, a decades-old question that has remained unanswered.

“This question has been an elephant in the room for obstetric care providers and researchers for quite some time,” said Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology in UAB’s School of Medicine and principal investigator/project director for CHAP. “Everyone knows chronic hypertension causes serious and sometimes life-threatening complications for the pregnant woman and her baby, but no one really knows how best to manage the condition during pregnancy. While treatment of chronic hypertension is standard for the general population, it is uncertain whether treatment during pregnancy is beneficial or safe for the fetus. Specifically, while we know chronic hypertension adversely affects the baby’s growth, there are concerns that treatment of hypertension may also impair the baby’s growth. It’s a catch-22, and it’s one for which we need to find answers.”

Joseph Biggio, M.D., Maternal and Fetal Medicine division chief, vice chair for research and quality in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the director of the Center for Women’s Reproductive Health, will oversee biospecimen collection for the study in an effort to uncover the underlying mechanisms for adverse outcomes. Biggio says UAB is well-positioned to conduct this expansive research effort.

“The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAB has a well-known history of successful design and performance of complex clinical trials,” Biggio said. “Our team of investigators and research personnel has considerable expertise with clinical study design and implementation at the local level, and also with the coordination of efforts across multiple sites to accomplish study recruitment and answer critically important research questions. With our experienced investigative team, we are uniquely poised to efficiently enroll patients, orchestrate the interactions with the other centers, and — at the end of the study — produce a high-quality manuscript that has the potential to change the way obstetrics is practiced.”

pregnant hypertensionChronic hypertension during pregnancy also is believed to be associated with a five- to tenfold increase in rare maternal cardiovascular and other complications, including death, stroke, pulmonary edema and acute renal failure.The School of Medicine and the School of Public Health worked for almost three years with the NHLBI to plan and fine-tune a study that would help answer this question and others regarding chronic hypertension and pregnancy; it has been an issue since the late 1970s when the Hypertension Detection and Follow-up Program provided strong evidence for the benefits of treating even mild hypertension.

“CHAP is a pragmatic trial that aims to provide a clear understanding of current practice of managing blood pressure in pregnancy compared with a more rigorous approach to the treatment of blood pressure during this period,” said Gary Cutter, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics in UAB’s School of Public Health and principal investigator of the data coordinating center for the trial. “This standard of care versus a more rigorous approach parallels the Hypertension Detection and Follow-up Program study where referred care — usual care in the community plus referral when blood pressures were found to exceed certain thresholds — was compared to a rigorous stepped-care approach to therapy.” 

Chronic hypertension is the most common major medical disorder encountered during pregnancy, occurring in up to 6 percent of pregnant women in the United States. The substantial negative effect of chronic hypertension on pregnancy includes a consistent three- to five-fold increase in superimposed preeclampsia, placental abruption and adverse perinatal outcomes, including fetal or neonatal death, preterm birth, and poor fetal growth.

Chronic hypertension during pregnancy also is believed to be associated with a five- to tenfold increase in rare maternal cardiovascular and other complications, including death, stroke, pulmonary edema and acute renal failure.

Still, not treating pregnant women whose blood pressures are in the mild chronic hypertension range (less than 160/105-110 mmHg) with antihypertensive medication is the current recommendation.

“Everyone knows chronic hypertension causes serious and sometimes life-threatening complications for the pregnant woman and her baby, but no one really knows how best to manage the condition during pregnancy."

“In general, when the blood pressure is greater than 160 over 110, women are treated regardless of pregnancy because of concerns of stroke and other cardiovascular incidents,” Tita said. “The problem is the majority of women with chronic hypertension at the reproductive age have mild chronic hypertension. So we are talking about up to 80 percent of pregnant women with chronic hypertension who may not receive treatment, and we don’t know how that affects their pregnancy and whether that might lead to bad outcomes in the long term compared with treatment. In addition, the information that associates treatment with poor fetal growth is relatively weak, which is why we must investigate this further in a rigorous trial.”

CHAP will involve at least 16 academic clinical centers, including UAB, with approximately 30 hospitals across the United States. Columbia University, Duke University, Stanford University, University of California–San Francisco, University of Mississippi, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas at Houston, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, University of Texas Southwestern, the University of Utah and Washington University in St. Louis are major partners with UAB in the project.

Managing multicenter clinical trials as the data coordinating center is a key component of being able to conduct complex clinical trials that span multiple institutions and locations, something in which the UAB School of Public Health Biostatistics group has had extensive experience.

“CHAP is one of the many trials our group manages,” Cutter said. “Our job involves developing Web-based data entry systems, quality control and quality assurance monitoring. We perform analyses for monitoring the safety and reporting of the information to external Data and Safety Monitoring Committees, which provide an outside review of the trial with the primary goal of protecting the patients. Finally, our analyses go into preparing reporting of the results along with the trial investigators.”

Jeff Szychowski, Ph.D., associate professor of public health, will help Cutter manage the data coordinating center as the deputy director.

Distinguished Professor of Medicine Suzanne Oparil, M.D., also is a co-investigator on the grant.

William W. Andrews, Ph.D., M.D., professor and chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology will serve as CHAP steering committee chair.

The project will be implemented as a cooperative agreement with NHLBI collaborators.

Khaled wins Fulbright-Nehru award to combat diabetes in India
Khaled wins Fulbright-Nehru award to combat diabetes in India
Mohammad Khaled, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award to develop and improve research and teaching efforts in India related to Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
UAB’s federal research funding up significantly
UAB’s federal research funding up significantly
A one-year, 20 percent increase in research grants elevates UAB to No. 10 among public universities receiving National Institutes of Health funding.

researchers 2Funding for the University of Alabama at Birmingham from the National Institutes of Health rose more than 20 percent in fiscal year 2014 compared to the previous year. National Institutes of Health funding to the university totaled $225 million (including contracts), up from $188 million in FY 2013, placing UAB 10th in NIH funding among public universities.

“NIH funding is more competitive than ever, and this significant increase underscores UAB’s success in continually pushing the frontiers of science and medicine and advances our strategic aim of being among the nation’s elite, research-intensive institutions of higher education,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D. “These dollars will be leveraged to make potentially game-changing strides in translational medicine and patient care, quality of life, and economic development for our community and state.”

NIH funds research at UAB’s professional schools at a substantial level. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research rankings, the School of Dentistry is second among dental schools in NIH funding at $11,775,000 in 2014, and the School of Public Health is ninth with grants totaling $28,964,000.

“Garnering research support at this level furthers our goal of becoming the preferred academic medical center of the 21st century. This vital funding helps us grow our footprint in the fields of genomics, personalized medicine and other key areas and, in turn, provide unparalleled care to patients throughout our state and region.”

The School of Health Professions had NIH funding of $5,696,000 last year,and the School of Optometry had more than $4 million.Since 2008, overall sustained grant funding to the School of Nursing has increased by more than 160 percent, placing the school 31st in NIH funding at $1,621,000.

The School of Medicine secured more than $156.3 million in 2014. This moves the school ranking to No. 26 nationally, up from No. 31 the previous fiscal year.

“Garnering research support at this level furthers our goal of becoming the preferred academic medical center of the 21st century,” said Selwyn Vickers, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine at UAB. “This vital funding helps us grow our footprint in the fields of genomics, personalized medicine and other key areas and, in turn, provide unparalleled care to patients throughout our state and region.”

Key areas of funding growth include three newly formed research institutes in genomic medicine, personalized medicine and informatics. UAB investigators are making revolutionary strides toward new treatments and therapies, including one that potentially could prevent and even reverse diabetes. UAB researchers also recently secured a $10 million, five-year grant to study ways to control viral infections.

Construction of a new Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences Building, planned as part of a larger Research and Academic Crescent, could help secure an estimated $48 million in additional NIH funding that could create upward of 580 new jobs and have an economic impact of $100 million on the Birmingham area.

UAB physicist named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors
UAB physicist named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors
Sergey Mirov, UAB’s fifth NAI fellow, creates novel lasers and finds new applications for them.

sergey mirovLaser physicist Sergey Mirov, Ph.D., left Russia 22 years ago, after training in Moscow under the 1964 Nobel laureate Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov and working at the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Mirov joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham physics faculty in 1993 and created a flourishing research team. Recognition of the resulting laser inventions and more than 20 patents comes today with the naming of Mirov as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). This professional distinction, shared by 170 academic inventors across the United States, is a credit to both his team and the environment at UAB, Mirov says.

“UAB was a young, actively growing university with freedom to think,” Mirov said of his arrival in 1993. “Moreover, the attitude toward people was that it does not matter where you come from. What is important is: Are you talented? Are you professional? Are you eager to work?”

A laser is an optical device that can focus light energy in three domains: the spatial domain, to create a very tight spot of light; the temporal domain, for an extremely fast burst of light; and the spectrum domain, which yields a narrow wavelength of light.

Lasers have three main parts, and Mirov has worked to modify or improve all three. First is the gain material, in which the optical signal is amplified. This material can include dielectric or semiconductor crystals, ceramics, glasses, gases, and liquids. Second is the cavity with mirrors at each end, where positive feedback takes place. Third is an external source of energy that pumps the laser.

Mirov’s lab in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences is supported by grants totaling $1.5 million. The lab has investigated new types of gain materials and new methods to make those materials. The team has researched new types of cavities that can produce multiple wavelengths of light and different methods of excitation energy — electrical, for example, rather than optical. Mirov also looks for new applications, such as a laser scalpel that can vary its cutting strength as a surgeon operates, or an “optical nose” to detect organic materials.

Mirov’s lab in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences is supported by grants totaling $1.5 million. The lab has investigated new types of gain materials and new methods to make those materials. The team has researched new types of cavities that can produce multiple wavelengths of light and different methods of excitation energy — electrical, for example, rather than optical. Mirov also looks for new applications, such as a laser scalpel that can vary its cutting strength as a surgeon operates, or an “optical nose” to detect organic materials.

Current research includes tunable lasers that can emit photons in the middle infrared spectrum. This ability has many potential scientific and medical applications, and IPG Photonics — an international company based in Massachusetts, with $648 million in revenue in 2013 — has licensed the invention. Seven IPG Photonics researchers are working on applications at the Innovation Depot, the Birmingham-based business incubator that operates in partnership with UAB.

Mirov says the UAB Research Foundation, now part of the UAB Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, helped protect the intellectual property created by his research. Leona Fitzmaurice, Ph.D., as director of technology transfer for the Research Foundation, negotiated the license with IPG Photonics.

Mirov and his wife, Olga, live in Vestavia Hills. Both of their sons graduated from Vestavia Hills High School. Mike Mirov is a UAB graduate who works with the seven-member IPG Photonics team, and Ilya Mirov is in the master’s program of the UAB Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Mirov said he felt welcomed when he came to America. “The United States is, in a sense, unique. It is a place where a foreigner can feel like a citizen. That only happens in the United States.”

NAI fellows, according to the NAI, are academic inventors “who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.”

UAB now has five NAI fellows: Mirov; Richard Marchase, Ph.D., and Dean Sicking, Ph.D., from the class of 2012; and David Briles, Ph.D., and Lawrence DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D., from the class of 2013. Birmingham’s Southern Research Institute has one NAI fellow: Arthur Tipton, Ph.D., 2013.

The 170 fellows named today bring the total number of NAI fellows nationwide to 414, representing more than 150 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions. Included among all of the NAI fellows are 61 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and nonprofit research institutes, 208 members of the other national academies (the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine), 21 inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 16 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, 10 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Science, 21 Nobel laureates, 11 Lemelson-MIT prize recipients, 107 AAAS fellows, and 62 IEEE fellows.

The NAI fellows will be inducted by the Deputy U.S. Commissioner for Patent Operations, from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, during the fourth annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors, March 20, 2015, at the California Institute of Technology. Fellows will receive a trophy, a newly designed medal and a rosette pin. A plaque on display at the Patent and Trademark Office will list the name and institution of each NAI fellow.

The 2014 NAI fellows will also appear in a full-page announcement in the Jan. 16 “Chronicle of Higher Education” and upcoming issues of “Inventors Digest” and “Technology and Innovation.”

The male scent stresses out lab rodents, study says
The male scent stresses out lab rodents, study says
Best of 2014 2Women have no effect on mice, but men cause a stress level comparable to a three-minute swim. Results indicate that researchers should account for these variables.

University of Alabama at Birmingham psychology professor Robert Sorge, Ph.D., recently published findings in Nature Methods that indicate the smell of male researchers causes a stress response that suppresses pain in mice and rats, while women have no effect on the test subjects.

mice-smell sSorge worked primarily alongside researchers at McGill University and then in his lab in the Department of Psychology at UAB to conduct a study that evaluated stress levels in lab rodents. Lab mice and rats were placed in a room and observed by a man or woman. The effect on the pain levels of the animals was drastically different.

The findings show that, in the presence of a male scent, rats and mice experience a stress response comparable to what they would experience being restrained in a tube for 15 minutes or swimming for three minutes. In the presence of a female scent, the rodents’ stress levels remained steady. They were also less stressed when given a woman’s shirt and a man’s shirt together.

Men secrete different amounts of testosterone-based chemicals than women do, and these alert the lab animals that there are male animals nearby, causing a spike in their stress levels. This can cause an issue with lab results, because the increased stress makes lab animals less sensitive to pain and perhaps less likely to react naturally to procedures involving learning and performance.

The results of this study could have a big impact on research, given that rats and mice comprise more than 95 percent of all lab animals. The results indicate that researchers should account for these variables in their experiments.

“Our findings suggest that one major reason for lack of replication of animal studies is the gender of the experimenter,” said Sorge. “It’s a factor that’s not currently stated in the methods sections of published papers, but it should be considered based on what we’ve discovered.”

Another option that male researchers could implement to lessen the impact on the animals would be to sit in a room with their test subjects for half an hour or more leading up to any experiments to help ease the stress effects on the animals, which will decrease over time.

John Simon Guggenheim



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