Research Resources


Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Development (OVPRED)

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.

Integrated Research Administration Portal (IRAP)

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

UAB Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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

Funding Sources and Grant Opportunities

Presentations and general information related to effective grant writing.

Office of Postdoctoral Education

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/Lakeshore Research Collaborative partners with industry to improve handcycles for people with high-level spinal cord injury
UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative partners with industry to improve handcycles for people with high-level spinal cord injury
The Quad Rider makes it easy to shift gears and brake, enabling people with poor grip-control to safely cycle.

uab lakeshoreThe University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Lakeshore Foundation are partnering with InvoTek, Inc., to create a gear and braking device that helps people with disabilities who have limited or no use of their hands operate a handcycle safely.

InvoTek, a research and development company in Alma, Arkansas, has received a $175,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund the development of technology called a Quad Rider to enable people with high-level spinal cord injury the opportunity to enjoy the health benefits of handcycling.

“Lack of access to recreation equipment is one of the primary barriers to participating in health-enhancing fitness activities for people with spinal cord injury,” said James Rimmer, Ph.D., the director of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative. “The Quad Rider can open up the possibility of promoting a wonderfully engaging form of physical activity for people with high-level tetraplegia and help lower their risk of heart disease and diabetes while improving their mental well-being.”

“The mechanism does not require strength to brake quickly, which is a big deal for someone who has limited control of his or her hands. Plus, riders can change gears by puffing air into a device through a straw attached to their helmets, allowing them to keep their hands in position to steer and brake.”

The Quad Rider makes it easy to shift gears and brake, enabling people with poor grip-control to safely cycle.

“The mechanism does not require strength to brake quickly, which is a big deal for someone who has limited control of his or her hands,” said InvoTek president Tom Jakobs. “Plus, riders can change gears by puffing air into a device through a straw attached to their helmets, allowing them to keep their hands in position to steer and brake.”

The Quad Rider will attach onto a standard handcycle. Phase II will focus on enhanced automation of the device for people unable to use a handcycle because of limitations with hand function/dexterity.

LRRK2 inhibitors may be key to combating Parkinson’s disease, UAB study says
LRRK2 inhibitors may be key to combating Parkinson’s disease, UAB study says
New drugs to slow or even prevent Parkinson’s could be in human studies as early as 2015.

Written by Matt Windsor

andrew west 3An enzyme closely associated with genetic forms of Parkinson’s disease appears to play a larger role in its progression than previously thought, say investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The new research offers encouraging evidence that drugs to block this enzyme, known as leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 or LRRK2, could slow — or even prevent — Parkinson’s from developing.

In the study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on June 9, UAB researchers eliminated the gene for LRRK2 (pronounced “lark two”) in rats and combined these animals with genetic models of Parkinson’s.

“We found that this offered very good protection from over-expression of a protein — alpha synuclein — that is linked to Parkinson’s disease,” said Andrew West, Ph.D., lead author on the paper and the John A. and Ruth R. Jurenko Endowed Professor in Neurology at UAB.

The genetic model used in the UAB study more closely mimics Parkinson’s disease than do other, more frequently used models, which suggests that inhibiting LRRK2 in humans could help more than those with the less-common genetic forms.

“The pool of Parkinson’s patients who might benefit from LRRK2 drugs may be bigger than we originally thought,” West said.

West’s lab is working closely with Birmingham-based Southern Research Institute through the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance to rapidly develop LRRK2 inhibitors. He hopes to reach human testing as early as 2015.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than a million Americans. Tremors, stiff muscles and slow movement are the most common symptoms of the disease. These symptoms are caused by a massive loss of cells in the substantia nigra, a brain region that helps control movement.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than a million Americans. Tremors, stiff muscles and slow movement are the most common symptoms of the disease. These symptoms are caused by a massive loss of cells in the substantia nigra, a brain region that helps control movement. The dying cells are filled with clumps of alpha-synuclein, making it the chief suspect in Parkinson’s disease.

The trouble is that researchers have not found a way to control alpha-synuclein levels directly.

“It’s a normal protein — actually one of the most highly abundant proteins in the brain — so it isn’t easy to figure out how to block its progression into aggregates that spread through the brain,” West said.

That is why Parkinson’s researchers are so excited about LRRK2. In 2006, West demonstrated that all the known mutations in LRRK2 increase LRRK2 activity. Other studies showed that LRRK2 is biochemically linked with alpha-synuclein in several ways.

Since those discoveries in the rats, the idea has been that developing drugs to reduce LRRK2 activity should provide protection against damage caused by alpha-synuclein, according to West.

Any treatment advance would be welcome in Parkinson’s, which West says has not seen a real breakthrough drug since L-dopa was developed 50 years ago.

Genetic forms of Parkinson’s that have highlighted LRRK2 involvement in disease are widespread in some populations, including those of Ashkenazi Jewish and North African Berber descent, where inherited Parkinson’s accounts for up to 40 percent of cases.

“But it drops dramatically depending on your ethnic background,” West said. “If you’re from a European, Caucasian population, it’s more on the order of 2 to 3 percent. This may be important in initial first-in-man studies in deciding who should first get LRRK2 drugs.”

Any treatment advance would be welcome in Parkinson’s, which West says has not seen a real breakthrough drug since L-dopa was developed 50 years ago.

“Together with Southern Research Institute, we have a very strong drug pipeline, and we hope to be in first-in-man studies as early as next year,” West said. “But while that work is ongoing, we need to ask a bigger question: What happens if you simply remove all LRRK2 activity? Modern approaches allow us to approximate what a perfect drug would do in rats and mice.”

The results, captured in the PNAS paper, emphasize the importance of LRRK2 and the need for further study, which West is pursuing.

“We think LRRK2 is plugging into Parkinson’s disease in more than one way,” West explained. “It is making the disease more likely to happen and making it progress faster when it does happen. So we think knocking out LRRK2 will do the opposite — slow the disease or make it much less likely to develop.”

Even slowing the disease marginally could have a tremendous effect on patients with Parkinson’s disease, West notes. Drugs like L-dopa are effective at controlling symptoms and making life manageable for patients; but they eventually stop working, and side effects inevitably become as burdensome as the disease itself, West says.

LRRK2 inhibitors could greatly extend the useful window for L-dopa treatment.

“Whereas L-dopa may be effective for 10 years currently, if LRRK2 inhibitors slowed disease progression, we could dramatically extend the effectiveness of existing drugs to 20, 30 or 40 years — basically the rest of the patient’s life.”

For more information, contact Media Relations Specialist Bob Shepard, bshep@uab.edu.

Early, phone-based, palliative care support improves caregiver quality of life and patient survival
Early, phone-based, palliative care support improves caregiver quality of life and patient survival
UAB School of Nursing's federally funded study shows both the patient and caregiver benefit from early palliative care.

palliative care supportThe earlier a specific phone-based, palliative care support program can be introduced to caregivers, the better they will be able to cope with the caregiving experience, according to research conducted by University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing investigators.

The patient outcomes from the study, known as ENABLE III, were presented June 3 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago by Marie Bakitas, D.N.Sc., associate director in the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care in the Department of Medicine. J. Nicholas Dionne-Odom, Ph.D., R.N., a postdoctoral fellow in the UAB Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program and researcher in the School of Nursing, will present the caregiver outcomes from the study.

“Family caregivers are a crucial part of the patient-care team. Because the well-being of one affects the well-being of the other in a reciprocal way, both parties benefit when caregivers receive palliative care,” said Bakitas, the senior study author and Marie L. O’Koren Endowed Chair. “We found that, when caregivers began receiving palliative care support around the time of the patient’s advanced cancer diagnosis, they had less depression, perceived themselves to be less burdened by performing caregiving tasks and had better quality of life.”

In this National Institute of Nursing Research-funded study — one of the first to use a patient and caregiver palliative care intervention in parallel — 207 patients with recurrent or metastatic cancer and 122 family caregivers received palliative care support via a phone-based intervention. One group of patients and family caregivers started receiving this intervention within two weeks of randomization (immediate group), and another group started 12 weeks later (delayed group).

"Unfortunately, the full range of palliative care services is rarely taken advantage of because palliative care is often introduced too late in the course of cancer treatment. Patients and caregivers should understand that palliative care is not end-of-life care but rather an extra layer of support that can be offered along with curative medical treatments.”

After enrollment and an in-person palliative care assessment, advanced practice palliative care nurses delivered a phone-based curriculum (Charting Your Course) and provided monthly supportive care follow-up to patients and caregivers by telephone. The curriculum covers how to manage problems using creativity, optimism, planning and expert information; self-care including healthy eating, exercise and relaxation; how to effectively partner with care recipients in managing symptoms; how to build a support network; and decision-making, decision support and advance care planning. The Charting Your Course curriculum was developed for the purposes of this research study, and it is publicly available. Telephone delivery of the program simplified access to the support for caregivers in rural areas.

Researchers found the patients had a longer survival and the caregivers’ overall quality of life, depression and burden were all improved in the immediate group versus the delayed group. “Unfortunately, the full range of palliative care services is rarely taken advantage of because palliative care is often introduced too late in the course of cancer treatment,” Bakitas said. “Patients and caregivers should understand that palliative care is not end-of-life care but rather an extra layer of support that can be offered along with curative medical treatments.”

Palliative care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. By definition, it is a partnership of patient, medical specialists and family with the goal of improving quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Dionne-Odom, the lead author on the caregiver study, noted there are few organized palliative care programs for caregivers of patients with advanced cancer, and reimbursement for this type of counseling is very limited. An online family care navigator tool from the Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving website may help family caregivers find assistance in their local area.

Patient (abstract #9512) and caregiver (abstract #LBA9513) outcomes from the ENABLE III study will be presented separately at the ASCO annual meeting.

The National Institutes of Health supported this research.

UAB study identifies way brain tumors fuel their growth
UAB study identifies way brain tumors fuel their growth
Researchers identify the strategy that highly aggressive brain tumor cells use to fuel their relentless expansion and reveal a fresh target for cancer therapy.

markus bredelIn a study published online in The Journal of Clinical Investigation on May 27, Markus Bredel, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the UAB Department of Radiation Oncology and senior scientist in the neuro-oncology program at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues demonstrate that a phenomenon known as “alternative splicing” allows brain tumors to incapacitate a key tumor suppressor gene, and that this splicing event happens in a tissue-specific context.

Alternative splicing involves the beading together of different parts of a gene. In this case, Bredel and his co-authors discovered that a specific spliced form of the membrane-binding tumor suppressor annexin A7, or ANXA7, leads to the decreased breakdown of a receptor, EGFR, that contributes to the growth of tumor cells.

Brain tumors are a serious medical problem with few options for a cure or effective long-term treatment. Glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest and most common form of malignant brain tumor, is “probably one of the most aggressive human cancers,” Bredel said.

Almost all glioblastomas exhibit excessive activation of the EGFR pathway. In previous papers published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Bredel’s team had discovered that higher levels of EGFR were associated with a loss of the ANXA7 gene. Further research convinced the scientists that ANXA7 keeps EGFR in check by marking it for degradation by the cell.

“So it’s to the benefit of the tumor cell to knock down these regulators,” Bredel said. “EGFR is the ‘bad guy’ in cancer cells,” Bredel explained. “And ANXA7 is the police; in usual conditions, it constrains EGFR. But when that police force is gone, the bad guy can do what he wants.”

The new study reveals what happens to ANXA7 — and introduces a fresh target for cancer therapy: PTBP1. This “splice factor” snips out a crucial part of the ANXA7 gene, compromising its function. Intriguingly, Bredel and colleagues found that in the brain this process happens in stemlike precursor cells that represent potential cells of origin of glioblastoma but not in mature neuronal cells, suggesting that glioblastoma cells inherit the splice trait from a potential tumor-initiating ancestor, and that these cells further exploit this trait through accumulation of mutations that enhance EGFR signaling.

The researchers demonstrated that PTBP1 is overexpressed in animal models of glioblastoma; they also found the same thing in tissue samples from human patients.

Understanding how brain tumors form in the first place, “and what causes their progression or aggressiveness, will allow cancer researchers to develop novel and improved treatments for this disease. We hope these studies provide new avenues for treatment of glioblastoma, while improving our understanding of the fundamental process of how the cancers form and progress.”

“We showed that when you have elevated PTBP1 levels in a tumor, brought about in part by amplification of the PTBP1 gene, it portends the worst prognosis for the patients,” Bredel said.

Bredel’s lab is now searching for effective inhibitors of PTBP1. This may be a more promising avenue for therapy than trying to boost ANXA7 levels, Bredel says.

“Restoring tumor suppressor genes in cancer patients has proved to be a very difficult process,” he said. “Finding something that is upregulated in a cell, such as PTBP1, and inhibiting it is much easier.”

Understanding how brain tumors form in the first place, “and what causes their progression or aggressiveness, will allow cancer researchers to develop novel and improved treatments for this disease,” Bredel said. “We hope these studies provide new avenues for treatment of glioblastoma, while improving our understanding of the fundamental process of how the cancers form and progress.”

This study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant in brain cancer at UAB.

Owsley named to leadership post in ARVO
Owsley named to leadership post in ARVO
UAB Nathan E. Miles Chair of Ophthalmology has been named chair-elect of the Ethics and Regulations in Human Research Committee of the Association for Research in Vision Science and Ophthalmology.

owsley sCynthia Owsley, Ph.D., MSPH, professor and Nathan E. Miles Chair of Ophthalmology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology, was named chair-elect of the Ethics and Regulations in Human Research Committee of ARVO, the Association for Research in Vision Science and Ophthalmology.

“I can’t think of a more appropriate and deserving scientist to serve in this role,” said Christopher Girkin, M.D., MSPH, chair of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology. “ARVO is the most preeminent vision research organization in the world, and this appointment reflects an appreciation of Dr. Owsley’s internationally renowned experience in the design and application of clinical research, which is an invaluable asset to our department and to ARVO.”

The ARVO Ethics and Regulations in Human Research Committee reviews and recommends policies and positions regarding human biomedical research, serves as a resource for vision science researchers, and increases awareness of bioethical considerations in human research.  

Owsley will take on the duties of chair-elect following the close of the 2014 ARVO annual meeting on May 8. She will assume the role of chair immediately following the 2015 annual meeting for a two-year term ending in 2017.

Owsley was named a Gold Fellow by ARVO in 2013. Her research program focuses on aging-related eye disease and vision impairment and is funded by a number of organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, Research to Prevent Blindness, the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, Prevent Blindness, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her research embodies many approaches, including methodologies from psychophysics, epidemiology, clinical trials and health services research.

Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award

This award was established by the University of Alabama at Birmingham to recognize one of its faculty who has rendered outstanding service in the Birmingham community in one or more of the following areas:
  • Education
  • Economic Development
  • Health Care Delivery
  • The Arts
  • Social services
  • Human rights
  • and Urban and public affairs.

Eligibility


To be eligible, a person must currently hold a full-time regular faculty appointment at UAB, as defined by the UAB Faculty Handbook, and have completed at least one academic year in this position. A person may receive the award only once in any five-year period.

The recipient of the Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award will be recognized at the annual Faculty Awards Convocation and will receive a $2,500 cash award.

A nomination package should consist of a brief letter of nomination, the faculty member’s curriculum vitae, a one- to two-page description of the community service for which the award is sought, and a maximum of five letters of recommendation. This information should be submitted to Linda Piteo (AB 374) by 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 19, 2014. If you have questions, please contact Linda Piteo at 934-9438.

Past Recipients


2014 - Cynthia Ryan
2013 - Larry DeLucas
2012 - Stephen Yoder
2011 - Tamilane Blaudeau
2010 - Max Michael
2009 - Brian Geiger
2008 - John Thornton