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This spring the Department launched its inaugural Pilot Grant Awards Program to support clinical and translational research. The program, spearheaded by Rakesh Patel, Ph.D., interim vice chair for research and Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, was inspired in part by feedback provided at an annual department-wide faculty retreat.

The request for proposals was announced in December 2017, with a proposal deadline of February 15, 2018, and requests for full applications announced on March 15.

The Translational Research Pilot Awards encouraged multi-PI projects that have advanced beyond the first stages of planning, designed to generate sufficient data for use in extramural funding applications including large programmatic grants (e.g., R01, DoD, PPG, P50, U54). Projects that are responsive to upcoming/issued RFAs were highly encouraged.

Two Translational Research Pilot Awards were chosen from 10 applications, and will be funded at the rate of $25,000 each for one year starting June 1. They are:

  1. "Nuclear-mitochondrial Genetic Interaction Drives Tumor Metabolism and Breast Cancer Growth," with principle investigators Douglas Hurst, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology and Scott Ballinger, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology
  2. "Novel Transcriptional Regulation of Lysosomal Biogenesis and Autophagy in Cardiac Pathophysiology," with principle investigators John Chatham, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology and Jianhua Zhang, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology

Awardees will be required to provide a six-month interim progress report (1 page) detailing accomplishments and future plans and will be required to present their findings at the Department of Pathology Grand Rounds.

Clinical Research Pilot Awards are designed to provide seed support to facilitate and enhance Translational Research programs and scholarly activity across the Department. Projects in the early stages of planning that will advance our academic, scholarly and research missions were especially welcome. Examples of anticipated use of funds included: supporting collection of data to be used in conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications and extramural grant applications.

Six Clinical Research Awards were funded at the rate of $5,000 each for one year starting June 1. They are: 

  1. "Autophagy-related Gene GABARAPL1 in Linking Obesity and Breast Cancer Disparity," Shuko Harada, M.D. Associate Professor of Pathology, Head of Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, Interim Division Director, Genomics and Bioinformatics
  2. "Identification of Genetic Determinants of Diffuse Cirrhosis-Like Hepatocellular Carcinoma," Sameer Al Diffalha, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology, GI Fellowship Director, Division of Anatomic Pathology
  3. "Histological and Molecular Biomarkers for Risk-Stratifying Colorectal Cancer," Rong Jun Guo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology, Division of Anatomic Pathology
  4. "Circulating Biomarkers in Acquired Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: Roles of Neutrophil Activation and Systemic Inflammation," Wenjing Cao, M.D., Ph.D., Instructor, Department of Pathology, Division of Laboratory Medicine
  5. "Development of a Circulating Debulking Signature to Predict Optimal Versus Suboptimal Cytoreduction of Ovarian Cancer," Liyun Cao, M.D., Instructor, Department of Pathology, Division of Laboratory Medicine
  6. "Discordance Between the Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT) and the anti-Xa While Monitoring Heparin Therapy: A Pilot Study For Discovery of Clinical Significance and Underlying Mechanisms," Lawrence Williams, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology, Director of Therapeutic Apheresis, Division of Laboratory Medicine

 "The Department is encouraged by the response we received from this initial RFA, and we look forward to fostering the research of these innovative investigators throughout the year," Patel said. "We are excited at how this work enhances the Department's research portfolio, and look forward to seeing where it leads."

Read the full 2017 Clinical Research Award RFA here; read the full 2017 Translational Research Award RFA here. Look for information to come on 2018 funding opportunities.