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

New HPV vaccine shows promise to dramatically reduce cervical cancer
New HPV vaccine shows promise to dramatically reduce cervical cancer
Renowned UAB HPV expert Warner Huh says new nine-valent HPV vaccine has the potential to eradicate the majority of cervical cancer.

A multinational study on a diverse group of women shows that a new nine-valent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents infections and disease associated with the vaccine types, according to a paper published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. The vaccine has the potential to dramatically reduce rates of cervical cancer, as well as the number of cervical exams a woman must have during her lifetime, says Warner Huh, M.D., professor and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Gynecologic Oncology and one of the authors of the study.

“There is no question that the vaccine works,” Huh said. “Now, we have a second-generation vaccine that protects against 90 percent of the HPV viruses that cause cervical cancer. This vaccine can literally eradicate the majority of cervical cancer, if given widely and appropriately.”

The nine-valent HPV vaccine immunizes against nine genotypes of HPV known to cause cervical cancer. It is an advance from the four-valent HPV vaccine marketed by Merck & Co. as Gardasil, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Gardasil, which Huh helped to develop and test, targets four genotypes that cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer. The new vaccine includes those four and five additional genotypes. Both vaccines are prophylactic, meant to be given before women are exposed to possible HPV infection through intimate contact.

The nine-valent vaccine trial included 14,215 women ages 16-26 from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In January, Huh was the lead author of the most defining change in women’s cancer screening in the past 20 years. He led a group of cervical cancer-screening experts in writing a new interim guidance about the health advantages of using an HPV test alone, rather than the customary Pap smear, as the primary screen to find cervical cancer or its precursors.

“We’re really on the verge of a dramatic change that will positively affect all individuals, particularly women, in the United States,” said Huh, a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The challenge will be to get the new vaccine into widespread use among young women.” Like the four-valent vaccine, the nine-valent Gardasil 9 vaccine requires three injections taken at day one, month two and month six. Gardasil 9 was approved by the FDA in December 2014 for use in females ages 9-26 and males ages 9-15.

“The real issue is we need to improve vaccination rates in this country. The population benefit seen in countries like Australia has been truly impressive. We should learn and adopt their vaccination practices,” Huh said.

In 2011, 12,109 U.S. women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,092 died, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is commonly known that most cervical cancer is caused by HPV infection of the cervix.

The lead author of the nine-valent HPV vaccine study is Elmar Joura, M.D., of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. Huh is one of 26 other authors and provided significant intellectual input about the design and analysis of the vaccine trial.

In January, Huh was the lead author of the most defining change in women’s cancer screening in the past 20 years. He led a group of cervical cancer-screening experts in writing a new interim guidance about the health advantages of using an HPV test alone, rather than the customary Pap smear, as the primary screen to find cervical cancer or its precursors. Under that new guidance, the Pap smear, which dates back more than 80 years, would still be used for follow-up tests if an HPV test is positive, and the Pap smear will still be used for primary screening of women ages 25 and younger. This new guidance affects about 80 million U.S. women ages 25-65 — or 1.2 million women across Alabama — who should be screened periodically by their health care providers for cervical cancer.

Just like the public health need to increase rates of vaccination with HPV vaccine, there also is a crucial need to reach more women who continue to be unscreened or underscreened for cervical cancer, Huh says. Both of these improvements in clinical practice are vital pieces to ending cervical cancer for women.

Hayden man is first outside Japan to receive new heart implant
Hayden man is first outside Japan to receive new heart implant
UAB Hospital is first in the United States to implant new Evaheart device as part of the US Pivotal Trial to test L-VAD for patients with severe congestive heart failure.

evaheartFrom left: Salpy Pamboukian, George "Mac" McAllister, Pat McAllister and James Kirklin.George “Mac” McAllister had already endured two heart attacks, quadruple-bypass surgery, myopathy, ischemia of the heart and a congestive heart failure diagnosis by the time he arrived at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heart & Vascular clinic in October 2014. Actually, McAllister, a Hayden, Alabama, native, had experienced all of those things, including the congestive heart failure diagnosis, some five and a half years earlier.

So it wasn’t a surprise when UAB physicians told McAllister he had finally reached end-stage congestive heart failure and would need a transplant. McAllister’s health had declined so much in the months leading up to his October visit, however, that he wasn’t a candidate for transplant and would have a difficult time becoming a candidate without marked improvement.

“In short,” McAllister said, “my heart would not have held out long enough for a transplant without some kind of assistance.”

McAllister was admitted to UAB Hospital on Dec. 1 after a two-week outpatient evaluation for a heart transplant, and on Dec. 17, he became the first person outside Japan to receive the Evaheart Left Ventricular Assist Device, a potentially more physiologic L-VAD device than others currently available to help bridge patients to transplant. 

McAllister’s milestone surgery began the US Pivotal Trial, which will include up to six VAD clinical sites along with UAB and enroll up to 20 patients. UAB was chosen to participate in the Evaheart trial in part because of its international prominence in the field. Salpy Pamboukian, M.D., associate professor of medicine and section chief of Advanced Heart Failure, Transplantation and Pulmonary Vascular Disease in the School of Medicine, is the principal investigator for the UAB site. The current phase of the study is getting patients successfully to transplant, and Pamboukian says McAllister is on his way.

“Mr. McAllister is a pioneer,” Pamboukian said. “It takes a lot of courage to be the first person to go through this kind of experience. He was unwavering, and the best news is that he has done so well since the implant that he is now a candidate for a heart transplant.”

Heart-assist devices, or VADs, are implantable mechanical pumps that support blood flow in patients with severe heart failure. Implantable VADs can sustain the heart function of a patient for years and essentially serve either as a bridge-to-cardiac transplantation or for permanent use as a destination therapy.

evaheart 2Click to watch the video.The Evaheart continuous-flow mechanical support device is similar to two others available in the United States — the HVAD and the HeartMate II. UAB surgeons implant approximately 40 of these devices per year and have implanted more than 430 total VAD pumps since 1989. UAB ranks among the leading hospitals in the United States for these therapies.

The Evaheart presents different challenges for surgeons than the other L-VAD devices, however. One of those is that the Evaheart is larger, says James Kirklin, M.D., professor and director of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who, assisted by William Holman, M.D., professor of surgery, implanted the Evaheart into McAllister. 

Another challenge is that the surgery is more complex and longer, in large part because the device requires surgeons to develop a pocket in the muscles of the abdominal wall much larger than that required for other current pumps.

“The downside of the device is that everything is a bit more cumbersome,” Kirklin said. “The driveline is bigger. The VAD is bigger. However, the larger size accommodates a water-cooling system, which is unique to the Evaheart pump. Part of this experiment with the device is to see if having everything a bit larger and bulkier translates into fewer adverse events.”

That has been the case in Japan, where the system is manufactured and where it has been commercially available since 2010. The Evaheart has shown to have the advantages of a higher pump-flow capacity, augmentation of the native pulsatility of the heart and a lower risk of gastrointestinal bleeding in the Japanese clinical experience.

“The output from this pump is one of the highest we have seen,” Kirklin said. “Mr. McAllister had a tremendous cardiac output after surgery. And there is some evidence that, because of the increased pulsatility, the fragility of small vessels in the brain and the GI tract may be more favorably affected. That’s what the Food and Drug Administration is trying to determine with this trial.”

Under the U.S. Investigational Device Exemption Clinical Trial, Evaheart is appropriate for bridge-to-transplant patients. Until clinical trial data becomes available, it is considered too early to discern additional characteristics of the “ideal” Evaheart patient. Evaheart, Inc., believes the study will demonstrate that the pump is ideal for candidates who have a larger body size, prior history of GI bleeding or mild end-organ dysfunction.

“One of the things that we worry about with L-VADs is blood clots’ forming within the pump, something that is a known complication with other pumps,” Pamboukian added. “If we can minimize this type of long-term complication, it could be viewed as a destination therapy for those who for whatever reason could not receive a transplant.”

Although McAllister is the first person outside Japan to receive the Evaheart, more than 130 Japanese patients have been implanted with the device. Sixty-seven of those patients are still on the device, and 19 patients have been transplanted. The total accumulated support time for these patients thus far is 203 years, with an average support time of 693 days, or 1.89 years, according to Evaheart, Inc., the company who will distribute the device upon market clearance.

Under the U.S. Investigational Device Exemption Clinical Trial, Evaheart is appropriate for bridge-to-transplant patients. Until clinical trial data becomes available, it is considered too early to discern additional characteristics of the “ideal” Evaheart patient. Evaheart, Inc., believes the study will demonstrate that the pump is ideal for candidates who have a larger body size, prior history of GI bleeding or mild end-organ dysfunction.

Both Pamboukian and Kirklin were impressed that McAllister researched the Evaheart and asked to be part of the trial.

“My wife, Pat, and I prayed about it, and we decided we wanted to do this,” McAllister said. “For our own purposes we wanted to, perhaps, have a better unit installed — and the Japanese trial turned out really well, which gave us hope this pump was better.

“And maybe the overriding factor with me and my final decision was that, if this device can work and we can get it FDA-approved, then hopefully down the road many will benefit from it. I really wanted to be a part of making that happen. It’s not that I’m a brave person or that there is really anything special about me, but that really weighed heavily in my decision. I just thought if we could get the ball rolling here in the United States, maybe we could get on down the road toward getting this approved and hopefully moving into a brave new future with the L-VAD and folks benefiting from the devices even more than they do now.”

Enrollment in the trial will continue through 2015, as will ongoing consultation with the FDA. Evaheart, Inc., plans to expand the trial to 40 sites and 140 patients upon completion of the pivotal safety group.

See how UAB researchers turn diamonds into super sensors
See how UAB researchers turn diamonds into super sensors
In the Diamond Microfab Lab, gem-quality diamonds are transformed into electronics that can handle everything from ocean deeps to outer space. Watch how the patented process unfolds in The Mix.
New research finds baby’s genes, not mom’s, may trigger some preterm births
New research finds baby’s genes, not mom’s, may trigger some preterm births
UAB’s research links changes in genetic regions in infants with an increased risk of premature birth — and the data change the preterm paradigm.

biggioSome babies may be genetically predisposed to being born too soon, and variants in the DNA of the fetus — not the mother — may be the trigger for some early births.

That is the finding of research conducted by Joseph Biggio, M.D., professor and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and his colleagues from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Genomics and Proteomics Network for Preterm Birth Research. The March of Dimes will present its award for Best Research in Prematurity to Biggio for this work during the annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine meeting, which begins today in San Diego, California.

Biggio’s research analyzed the number of copies of certain segments of DNA in the blood or saliva from hundreds of babies and their mothers.

“These findings really open a whole different arena for us to look into as we think about preterm birth,” said Biggio, who was assisted by William Andrews, Ph.D., M.D., professor and chair of UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and others. “It causes us to think more critically about the role of the fetus in causing preterm birth. We’ve always thought about preterm birth as a maternal issue, but these data change the paradigm. It may be the fetus who has the underlying predisposition, not the mother. This still is very preliminary, and more investigation is needed; but the research clearly identified genetic regions associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.”

No link was established between the number of copies of the mother’s genes and the risk of preterm birth; however, there was a two- to 11-fold increase in preterm births before 34 weeks of gestation among infants in whom any of four genes was duplicated or any of seven genes was deleted.

“These findings may help explain what triggers early labor in some women even when they’ve done everything right during pregnancy and there’s no obvious cause for an early birth,” explained March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer Edward R.B. McCabe, M.D. “The hope is that this finding may one day lead to a screening test to help identify which babies are at a higher risk of an early birth.”

Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face an increased risk of a lifetime of health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and more. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. It is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the March of Dimes.

The preterm birth rate in the United States dropped more than 10 percent between 2006 and 2013, with most of the improvement focused in late preterm births (those between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy). Today’s research findings focused on early preterm births — births before 34 weeks of pregnancy — in which there has been little improvement in recent years.

More than 450,000 babies are born too soon each year in the United States, and Alabama has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the nation, at 15.1 percent. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face an increased risk of a lifetime of health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and more. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. It is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the March of Dimes.

While the differences in the number of copies of the genes or gene regions may not directly cause a preterm birth, they may make a baby more susceptible to infection or reacting to other harmful environmental factors that trigger early labor and delivery, Biggio says.

“We don’t know exactly that it’s the genes in these areas,” Biggio said. “It may be something else; but these changes are in the areas of these genes, and that’s certainly the first place to start looking.”

It may also help explain why treatment with progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone in pregnancy shown to prevent some preterm births, works for only about one-third of women.

“We think we are treating the mother with progesterone, but perhaps we are actually treating the baby or changing the fetal-immune response,” Biggio said.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded this research, which Biggio says emphasizes the importance of genetics and informatics to scientific discovery. This also reinforces the importance of UAB’s investment in data infrastructure and its hiring of renowned expert James Cimino, M.D., as the inaugural director of the UAB Informatics Institute.

“Genetics and informatics are going to be a key to our understanding of complex disease, and preterm birth is a prime example,” Biggio said. “If we can begin to understand the complexity of preterm birth and can work to prevent it, we will be able to avert significant health care expenditures and morbidity.”

Study to explore women’s emotional barriers to exercise
Study to explore women’s emotional barriers to exercise
An interdisciplinary UAB research team hopes to learn more about how emotions might keep people from getting enough exercise. 

calm studyLosing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, but many people struggle to get enough exercise to make such a resolution stick. University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers want to help women get more exercise by finding out the underlying issues that might keep them from exercising. Researchers are recruiting women ages 25-44 with a body mass index of 25-29.9 kg/m2 to join the Counseling and Activity Lifestyle Modification (CALM) Study.

Jane Roy, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of EducationDepartment of Human Studies, is leading the study supported by colleagues and students in the Kinesiology, Health

Education and Counselor Education programs and the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center Physical Activity and Exercise Core.

“Exercise really is medicine,” Roy said. “Physicians know exercise works and everyone knows they should do it, but so many people are sedentary. We’re learning that the reasons are multifactorial.”

While environmental and cultural factors contribute to difficulty in exercising regularly, the CALM study could show that emotional issues also can keep women from sticking to an exercise routine. To test that, all participants will be asked to commit to a regimen of walking three times weekly during the study, but one group will also receive positive psychotherapy sessions. A group of study participants will receive positive psychotherapy sessions in addition to a three-times-per-week walking regimen.

In addition to removing barriers such as access to exercise facilities, support from peers and time-management issues, Roy hopes that working to improve body image and self-esteem will help keep women exercising after the study ends.

While environmental and cultural factors contribute to difficulty in exercising regularly, the CALM study could show that emotional issues also can keep women from sticking to an exercise routine.

“Studies don’t typically change habits, and we wonder if emotions are the missing link,” Roy said.

After measuring their baseline health and aerobic fitness, researchers will monitor participants for 12 weeks during the study and follow up 12 weeks afterward to gauge their adherence to the exercise regimen.

Interested participants may call 205-996-1656 or email CALMstudy@uab.edu.

UAB Research Foundation