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  • sam patrick posted an article
    Greenwood Genetic Center, Clemson share important genetic research news see more

    Genetic networks define an individual’s unique characteristics that – coupled with lifestyle habits and other environmental factors – determine susceptibility to cancers, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and numerous other ailments. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has tasked Clemson University with unlocking these genetic codes through a new $10.6 million grant to establish the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Human Genetics in collaboration with the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC).

    The award funds an initial five-year phase of a COBRE, which can continue for 15 years, positioning the Clemson-GGC collaboration as a global leader in the scientific advancement of human genetics. The NIH COBRE program provides a long-term investment in the advancement of medical research around a central theme. This is NIH’s first COBRE specifically focused on human genetics.

    Trudy Mackay, the Self Family Endowed Chair of Human Genetics, will lead the COBRE in Human Genetics along with Robert Anholt, provost’s distinguished professor of genetics and biochemistry, and Richard Steet, director of research at Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC).

    Scientists standing in the lab. L-R: Robert Anholt, Trudy Mackay, Richard Steet
     

    The Greenwood Genetic Center provides clinical services to more than 5,000 patients annually, and diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs and research in medical genetics. Clemson’s Center for Human Genetics has collaborated closely with GGC since opening in 2018.

    “Merging the expertise of Clemson’s genome science with the patient-driven focus of the Greenwood Genetic Center is very powerful,” Steet said. “The theme of this COBRE is comprehensive – covering common disorders like cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases as well as very rare genetic disorders. We take a lot of pride in that breadth, as it gives our collaborations and the efforts of this COBRE room to grow.”

    At the heart of the COBRE in Human Genetics is a robust mentoring platform for early-career faculty. Leading scientists at several of the nation’s premier laboratories will serve as project mentors, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the National Cancer Institute, Duke University and the Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics at The Pennsylvania State University.

    Initially, the COBRE in Human Genetics will feature four core research projects and numerous pilot projects. The following investigators lead the four core projects:  

    Andrei Alexandrov, assistant professor of genetics and biochemistry at Clemson, will analyze human nuclear long non-coding RNAs to identify potential targets for new treatments for cancer and viral diseases. A former scientist at Yale University, Alexandrov developed an ultra-high throughput method that enables the discovery of genes involved in human RNA surveillance.

    Heather Flanagan-Steet, director of functional studies at the  Greenwood Genetic Center, will study genetic mutations that can cause neurological and cognitive impairment, skeletal abnormalities and even early infant death. Her work on rare diseases largely involves the generation of zebrafish models to investigate gene function and disease pathogenesis. She pioneered the use of zebrafish to model rare inherited diseases.

    Miriam Konkel, assistant professor of genetics and biochemistry at Clemson, will work to understand why and how transposable elements, sometimes called “jumping genes,” can move around the human genome and alter genetic expression. The movement of transposable elements may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

    Fabio Morgante, assistant professor of genetics and biochemistry at Clemson, will analyze genetic data from 500,000 people as part of a project to develop phenotypic models that can predict cardiovascular disease. His models will take into account ancestry, ethnicity and environmental factors that can affect disease susceptibility.

    The COBRE in Human Genetics will support numerous pilot projects related to human genetics and expand its research as the COBRE progresses and attracts additional investigators.

    The team is planning an annual symposium and a yearly retreat for the COBRE in Human Genetics participants to share knowledge and ideas. Already, renowned scientists worldwide, including members of the National Academy of Sciences, are participating in a monthly lecture series organized by the Center for Human Genetics.

    “GGC is honored to be part of this first-ever NIH COBRE in the field of human genetics,” said Steve Skinner, MD, GGC Director. “By combining the Greenwood Genetic Center’s 47 years of expertise in providing quality medical genetics services with the research talent and computational power of the Clemson Center for Human Genetics, patients and families impacted by both common and rare genetic diagnoses will reap the benefits.”

    “This grant truly raises the profile of both Clemson University and the Greenwood Genetic Center, and I am proud that our collaboration has the potential to make a difference for so many people. It is powerful to think of how many lives might be saved by learning more about the genetics behind some of these devastating diseases,” said Clemson University President Jim Clements.

    Research reported in this publication is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM139769. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    5-year Phase II COBRE grant will result in more funding to support research conducted at USC see more

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the University of South Carolina a five-year grant totaling more than $11.2 million to support the COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics based at the College of Pharmacy. This is Phase II of the COBRE grant, and follows the five-year Phase I portion of the research grant, which concluded this year.

    The COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics (CTT) is directed by SmartState endowed chair and drug discovery and biomedical sciences professor Dr. Igor Roninson, an internationally-recognized researcher in cancer therapeutics.

    “Dr. Roninson is an exceedingly accomplished scientist and has been successful in navigating the transition of this Center from the Phase I stage to the Phase II, which is not an easy task.  Less than one-half of the Phase I COBREs are successfully converted into a Phase II program,” said Dr. Stephen J. Cutler, Dean of the College of Pharmacy. “Under the Phase I Center, Dr. Roninson has directed the advancement of young faculty members into independently funded scientists, supported the growth of a critical mass of investigators focused on the design and discovery of new therapeutic agents, and enhanced the development of new research cores at the University of South Carolina.  Under the Phase II Center grant from NIH, Dr. Roninson should be able to strengthen the Center for Targeted Therapeutics at the UofSC.”

    Dr. Roninson was awarded the five-year Phase II COBRE grant of $2,235,000 annually from the National Institutes of Health to support the CTT. This Center was created to attract and foster the professional development of talented junior scientists dedicated to research in the treatment of debilitating diseases and to develop the infrastructure for targeted therapeutic studies.

    “Dr. Roninson’s Phase I COBRE-CTT established a cadre of highly talented and successful junior faculty in the College of Pharmacy, College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Medicine, whose research efforts focused on the discovery of new drug targets,” said Dr. Kim Creek, Associate Dean of Research at the College of Pharmacy. “The impact of the COBRE-CTT on research productivity at UofSC is substantial and far reaching. The Phase II award will provide funding for the COBRE-CTT for an additional five years and will support the hiring of additional junior faculty in the area of targeted therapeutics and allow for overall growth of this thriving Center.”

    The Center for Targeted Therapeutics includes three resource cores, including the Functional Genomics Core, the Drug Design and Synthesis Core and the Microscopy and Flow Cytometry Core. A core director is assigned to each of the research cores. These experts provide scientific advice in project development, along with technological support.

    For more information on the College of Pharmacy’s COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics, visit: https://tinyurl.com/yyy72s6c

  • sam patrick posted an article
    MUSC continues advances in telehealth see more

    The Medical University of South Carolina has received a $3.6 million grant to support the development of a national telehealth research network.

    As opposed to supporting a specific clinical research study, the grant seeks to establish an easily accessible support structure around telehealth research, including tools, resources, collaboration, education and advocacy materials to anyone across the country who wants to study telehealth programs.

    “We expect this network to become the preeminent source for evidence-based policy and outcomes data,” said Brook Yeager McSwain, health policy consultant for the project and manager of the S.C. Children’s Telehealth Collaborative, in a news release. “Our national and state legislators have seen the benefits of telehealth for certain populations and regions. We have to demonstrate to them that this works across the country and has the potential to dramatically impact health care delivery models.”

    The five-year National Institutes of Health grant builds on work already underway as part of the Supporting Pediatric Research on Outcomes and Utilization of Telehealth project, known as Sprout. The grant will support telehealth research efforts, metric development, identification of best practices and the development of collaborative policy and advocacy materials across the country.

    Sprout is a network of institutions and pediatric providers operating within the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a sub-awardee of the grant. The other sub-awarded institutions are the University of Colorado – Children’s Hospital ColoradoChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.

    “This is a huge step forward in the development of safe and impactful telehealth programs across the country,” said Dr. S. David McSwain, the primary investigator for the NIH grant, in the release. “Academic research into the real impact of telehealth services is a critical component of developing and growing programs with the greatest potential to improve our health care system.”

    In 2015, McSwain, who is also an MUSC Children’s Health physician, MUSC chief medical information officer and associate professor of pediatric critical care, collaborated with a small group of pediatric physicians across the country to form Sprout, which has since completed and published the nation’s first broad assessment of pediatric telehealth infrastructure across the country.

    The grant is a Collaborative Innovation award through the National Center for the Advancement of Translational Science. The program will operate in collaboration with Clinical and Translational Science Awardsites across the country to facilitate research development and support telehealth researchers to develop projects and find funding.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Multimillion-dollar grant to support heart health research at Clemson University see more

    Clemson University bioengineers picked Valentine’s Day to announce $4.1 million in grants to support new heart health research.

    Will Richardson and Naren Vyavahare are conducting research with the potential to affect millions of patients who suffer from many forms of cardiovascular disease and related illness, including heart failure, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to a university news release.

    Richardson, an assistant professor of bioengineering, is creating computer models aimed at providing better treatment for cardiac fibrosis, a condition that contributes to heart failure. As many as 60% of patients die within five years of developing heart failure, which afflicts 6.5 million Americans, Richardson said in the news release.

    No drugs have been approved to treat cardiac fibrosis specifically, and doctors are often left with trial-and-error experimentation when treating patients who have it, he said in the release.

    Richardson said he hopes his research will lead to a day when measurements from a patient’s blood or tissue sample can be plugged into mathematical equations based on how molecules interact in the body. Overnight, patients would have personalized risk assessments and treatments plan, he said in the release.

    Details about his research is available online.

    Vyavahare, the Hunter Endowed Chair of Bioengineering, is working on what could be the first treatment to reverse vascular calcification, a condition that occurs when mineral deposits build up on blood vessel walls and stiffen them, according to the news release. It is most prevalent in aging patients and those with chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes, Vyavahare said. Complications from vascular calcification can range from hypertension to death.

    The nanoparticles that Vyavahare is developing are many times smaller than the width of a human hair and would deliver two medicines to calcified blood vessels. One medicine would remove the mineral deposits that cause blood vessels to become calcified, and another would return elasticity to the blood vessels.

    More details about his work is online.

    The Richardson and Vyavahare projects were both funded through the National Institutes of Health’s R01 program. Richardson is receiving $1.9 million, and Vyavahare is receiving $2.2 million, the news release said.

    Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, congratulated Richardson and Vyvahare on their grants.

    Agneta Simionescu, an assistant professor of bioengineering, has also received $1.38 million through the R01 program. The Simionescu award was announced in November and is aimed at better understanding cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes, the news release said.

    Richardson and Simionescu were among the faculty members trained as part of SC BioCRAFT, a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence. The center’s primary goal is to increase the number of South Carolina biomedical researchers who are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

    Vyavahare leads SC BioCRAFT, which stands for the South Carolina Bioengineering Center for Regeneration and Formation of Tissues.