October 09, 2015

UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine awards first pilot grants

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mix double helix fThe UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine has bestowed its first research grants as part of the collaboration between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. The three pilot grants, each of $100,000 for up to two years, have been given to collaborative teams of one researcher from UAB and one from HudsonAlpha to pursue research projects in cancer and cardiac disease.

“We created the UAB-HudsonAlpha grants to stimulate collaborative research efforts between faculty at UAB and HudsonAlpha, with the goal of developing new research programs that will enhance the leadership of UAB and HudsonAlpha in the area of genomic medicine,” said Bruce Korf, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the UAB Department of Genetics in the UAB School of Medicine and co-director of the center. “These three were chosen from a highly competitive group of more than 20 proposals. We are excited to be able to fund these projects and will continue to work hard to catalyze many more collaborative efforts going forward.”

“HudsonAlpha and UAB are two of the top genetics and genomics research institutions in the nation, and the ability to collaborate on these types of projects enhances our capabilities in this area and also advances the mission of the Center for Genomic Medicine, to transform patient care through genomics,” said Richard M. Myers, Ph.D., president and scientific director of HudsonAlpha and co-director of the center.

In the first project, Anita Hjelmeland, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, and Sara Cooper, Ph.D., faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha, will generate genetically modified and inhibitor treated brain tumor initiating cells. Hjelmeland and Cooper will analyze the transcriptome and metabolome of these cells to identify pathways that are important for the regulation of glioblastoma growth. The results will be important for developing better treatment strategies for glioblastoma patients and will have important basic science and preclinical implications.

The second pilot project is a collaboration between Gregg Rokosh, Ph.D., associate professor at the UAB Division of Cardiovascular Disease, and Devin Absher, Ph.D., faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha. Rokosh and Absher will use defined genetic and pharmacologic models to provide decisive evidence for the involvement of factors associated with cardiac myocyte cell cycle withdrawal and the transition to hypertrophic growth and maturation. In hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, portions of the heart thicken, which impacts the ability of the heart muscle to function. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death.

The third funded project will be led by Sunil Sudarshan, M.D., associate professor at the UAB Department of Urology, and Absher. The researchers will identify epigenetic targets of oncometabolite-driven kidney cancers to understand the role of metabolism in renal carcinogenesis, and ultimately to develop novel therapies aimed at improving outcomes.

The UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine was established in 2014 to promote basic, clinical and translational research in the application of genomic approaches to solving questions related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. The center combines the breadth and depth of clinical knowledge and expertise at UAB with the access to genetic and genomic technologies and expertise at HudsonAlpha.

Its primary mission is to conduct research in genomic medicine and facilitate translation of research findings into clinical practice. In support of this mission, the Center brings together multidisciplinary teams from both institutions, composed of physicians, clinicians, biotechnologists, geneticists, bioinformaticists and other specialists who engage in collaborative research focused on genomic discoveries that will enhance and inform patient care.

As part of its core mission, the Center also offers a series of educational programs and resources in genomic medicine designed specifically for scientists, clinicians and researchers. In addition, the Center provides a range of expertise and resources to clinicians and others interested in research and the integration of genomics into medical practice. Supported by UAB’s expertise in clinical genomic medicine and the advanced genomic capabilities of HudsonAlpha, the Center’s collaborative research initiatives are on the forefront of genomic discoveries with the potential to transform patient care and treatment in the 21st century.