Research Grants—Propelling Discoveries in Medicine

ARUP medical directors pose and ponder deep scientific questions. Each year, staff members are awarded single or group grants to conduct research to answer such questions. Because government funding fell below 50 percent of all scientific research funding starting in 2013 (according to figures from the National Science Foundation), and is thought to be lower than that by many scientists, it’s especially impressive when a grant is awarded. We are proud that our researchers are being recognized for their ingenuity, expertise, and diligence.

Mark Fisher, PhD. Characterizing the role of antimicrobial peptide resistance in plague transmission. $1.9 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a 5-year grant. Goal: To determine the genetic and molecular mechanisms of resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) in Yersinia pestis (the bacterial agent of the plague), and the role this resistance plays in allowing it to successfully infect fleas.

Pinar Bayrak-Toydemir, PhD; Attila Kumanovics, PhD; Rong Mao, PhD; Karl Voelkerding, PhD. Web Tools for Physician-Driven Diagnostic Interpretation of Genomic Patient Data. $718,914 to the University of Utah. Goal: To develop highly visual web software tools to enhance the identification of disease-causing genetic variants for physicians and diagnostic pathologists at the point of care. These tools will facilitate rapid, effective, highly visual data quality control, and the rapid interrogation of inherited, potentially disease-causing variants.

Elaine Lyon, PhD; Rong Mao, PhD. The Clinical Genome Resource—Expert Curation and EHR Integration. $3,050,000 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (ARUP medical directors are taking part in a multiinstitutional grant-supported project). Goal: To provide a centralized, publicly accessible repository of information about human genetic variation and its relationship to health and disease. The result will be a resource that facilitates the clinical interpretation of genome-scale sequencing tests.

Wade Samowitz, PhD. MiRNA and Colorectal Cancer: Associations with Tumor Phenotype and Survival. $1,124,223 to the University of Utah. (Samowitz is participating in a larger grant-funded study.) Goal: To learn more about the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in colorectal cancer. MiRNAs are a class of small regulatory RNAs (biological macromolecules, or large molecules containing many atoms, that are essential to life, along with DNA and proteins) that mediate posttranscriptional silencing of specific target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The researchers’ hypotheses include that miRNA expression is associated with inflammation-related genetic and lifestyle factors that are key to colorectal cancer.

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