Grants & Awards in the School of Medicine

Missing Protein Leads to Hypoglycemia
May 29, 2018

Gina Yosten, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology & Physiology, received a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to support her studies on hyopglycemia in Type 1 diabetics.

Dr. Yosten’s previous work in animal models revealed that a protein called neuronostatin, which is normally released in the pancreas and promotes glucagon release, is impaired in type 1 diabetes. This lack of neuronostatin can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels. Dr. Yosten hopes they can develop a drug that can mimic or replace neuronostatin and provide protection from hypoglycemic events.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Universal Flu Vaccine
May 18, 2018

Sharon Frey, Ph.D., Professor of Infectious Diseases, Allergy & Immunology, will head one of four vaccine studies to develop a universal flu vaccine, which would protect against multiple virus strains. The study is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH.

The SLU Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) will conduct the laboratory testing for this phase 2 clinical trial, which will test a vaccine developed by BiondVax Pharmaceuticals.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Hoft Elected Academy of Science Fellow
April 5, 2018

Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy & Immunology, was selected as an Outstanding St. Louis Scientist by the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

Dr. Hoft was named a Fellow of the Academy, which recognizes a distinguished individual for outstanding achievement in science. The awards were presented at the Missouri Botanical Gardens on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink or on the Academy of Science website.

New Treatment for TB
August 28, 2017

Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy & Immunology, received a grant from the National Institute on of Allergy and Infectious diseases at the NIH to study a possible new oral treatment for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Study participants will be recruited in South Africa and Uganda where MDR-TB is most prevalent. Samples will be analyzed by researchers at SLU and the University of Maryland. the standard MDR-TB therapy consists of taking 5-7 drugs for up to 24 months along with an injected aminoglycoside antibiotic for 6 months. In the study, participants will either receive this standard therapy or will follow a regimen that substitutes a new oral drug, delamanid, for the shot. Delamanid works via a different mechanism than the antibiotic shot and was recently approved by the FDA for treatment of MDR-TB who have exhausted other treatment options. A new oral therapy could reduce development of drug resistance and could also increase treatment rates since the antibiotic injection is painful and has possible serious side effects.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Researchers Study Link Between Metformin and Dementia
July 7, 2017

Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., Professor and Research Director of Family and Community Medicine, received a grant from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH to study a possible relationship between the diabetes drug, Metformin, and dementia. Dr. Scherrer will head the study along with c-investigators, Susan Farr, Ph.D., Professor of Geriatrics, and John Morley, M.D., Chair of Enrocrinology and Geriatrics.

Investigators will use data from electronic health records from eligible patients from the Veterans Administration and Kaiser Permanente Washington. These patients are 50 years of age or older, have diabetes, and are free of any dementia diagnosis. Researchers will compare the patient risk of dementia once metformin treatment is started versus patients who delay pharmacological treatment. They will also determine if there is a link between metformin and a reduced risk of dementia in younger versus older patients.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Researchers Team Up to Target Diabetes and Obesity
March 31, 2017

Thomas Burris, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Pharmacology and Physiology, and John Walker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, received two grants, one from the Department of Defense and one from the NIH, to study how two nuclear signaling receptors, REV-ERB and ERR, are involved in muscle metabolism.

The researchers have found that both receptors cause changes in muscles that mimic the effects of exercise. They are now working to develop drugs to optimize muscle metabolism, in order to provide alternative treatment to obesity and diabetes.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Researchers Receive VA Merit Award
March 22, 2017

Jackie Kornbluth, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, has been awarded a 4-year VA Merit Award for studies on anti-tumor and anti-microbial immunity. Donald Lawrence, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow in Pathology, has played a key role in the development and execution of the research related to this award.

The Kornbluth lab has been studying the role of Natural Killer Lytic-Associated Molecule (NKLAM) in immunity and immune response since 1999. This grant will allow them to expand their research on NKLAM, which they recently discovered is necessary to fight Steptococcus pneumoniae respiratory infections. They hope to discover new preventions and treatments for cancer and other diseases.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Bird Flu Vaccine Study at SLU
March 17, 2017

Sharon Frey, M.D., Clinical Director of the Center for Vaccine Development, will head a Phase 1 clinical trial funded by the NIH, which will be conducted at SLU and five other vaccine centers.

The World Health Organization issued an alert earlier this year regarding avian flu cases, as this virus has the potential to cause a world-wide pandemic.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Biomarkers for Pain
February 20, 2017

Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, received a grant from The Mayday Fund to determine if either of two key molecules, S1PR1 and A3AR, are biomarkers of pain associated with four conditions: chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, endometriosis, interstital cystitis, and vulvodynia.

Chronic pain is often managed using opioids, which can be highly addictive and have severe side effects. Researchers previously found that modulating S1PR1 and A2AR blocked or reversed pain, making them prime targets to develop new treatments for this type of pain.

Researchers will now determine whether either of the molecules can be used as a biomarker to measure whether or not someone is suffering from pain via this pathway, and to determine if medication is treating the pain effectively. She will work with several SLU clinicians for this study in order to follow patients experiencing pain from the four conditions.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

PTSD and Cardiovascular Health
September 12, 2016

Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine, received a grant from the NHLBI at the NIH to study the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.

Many veterens who experience PTSD symptoms have an increased risk of hypertension, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. This study aims to determine if this increased risk can be attributed to unhealthy lifestyle choices that may be used to cope with PTSD, or if the PTSD itself is a risk factor.

Researchers will collect data from medical records from patients treated for PTSD in clinics by the Veterans Administration. The data will then be analyzed to determine if a reduction of symptoms is due to a healthier lifestyle, so patients can be encouraged to make healthy choices at the beginning of treatment.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Researchers Receive NIH Grant to Study Yellow Fever Vaccine
July 20, 2016

Sarah George, M.D., Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases, has received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH to study an investigational vaccine for yellow fever.

Yellow fever, a flavivirus like the Zika virus, is also spread by the Aedes mosquito. The current vaccine contains a weakened strain of the live virus and can therefore cause health problems for those who most need it, including infants and those with weakened immune systems. The George lab will conduct a clinical trial on a new vaccine for yellow fever that uses a modified version of the smallpox vaccine to deliver the yellow fever proteins to cells, thus stimulating an immune response. The vaccine will be tested for safety as well as efficiency of immune response.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Researchers to Study Zika Immune Response
July 6, 2016

Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, has received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH to study immune responses to Zika virus infection. The study will be conducted in conjunction with other Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Units at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine.

The Centers will recruit volunteers who have traveled to or had sexual contact with someone who traveled to areas where Zika is prevalent, and who have been diagnosed with or had symptoms of Zika infection. Researchers at SLU will analyze blood specimens from these volunteers in order to assess the body’s immune response to infection. Understanding how the virus works and how the body responds to infection could help scientists develop better treatments and more effective vaccines for the virus.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease
April 12, 2016

Jane McHowat, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, received a grant from the Lottie Caroline Hardy Charitable Trust to study the effects of smoking on heart health and, specifically, on heart muscle. Little is known about how smoke affects the heart muscle, as most studies have been done on the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Dr. McHowat will use human myocardium tissue samples collected during cardiac surgeries by two physicians at the Center for Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, Dawn Hui, M.D., and Richard Lee, M.D. The researchers will examine the tissue to see what differences, such as changes in structure and chemistry, are present in samples from smokers and non-smokers.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink.

Burris Elected Academy of Science Fellow
April 1, 2016

Thomas Burris, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of Pharmacology & Physiology, was selected as an Outstanding St. Louis Scientist by the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

Dr. Burris was named a Fellow of the Academy, which recognizes a distinguished individual for outstanding achievement in science. The awards were presented at the Chase Park Plaza Starlight Ballroom on Thursday, April 7, 2016.

For more information, read the full article in Newslink or on the Academy of Science website.

CWHM Receives Rare Disease Funding
March 31, 2016

Fran Sverdrup, Ph.D., Research Fellow in the Center for World Health and Medicine, received funding from Ultragenyx to develop a treatment for Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD), which causes muscle degeneration and afflicts more than 15,000 people in the U.S.

Dr. Sverdrup’s daughter was diagnosed with the disease several years ago, sending him on a quest to discover a treatment, as no therapies were available at the time. This lack of treatments led him to discover a class of compounds that could turn off the inappropriately expressed gene in FSHD patients. Recently, SLU and Ultragenyx signed an agreement to turn Dr. Sverdrup’s discovery into a treatment for FSHD.

Ultragenyx specializes in developing novel treatments for rare and ultra-rare diseases that might otherwise not be studied due to the small number of patients afflicted. The company has had success in turning these types of discoveries into viable treatments for these rare diseases.

Please see the full story in Newslink.

Alay Jain Receives NIDDK Grant
March 14, 2016

Alay Jain, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Pediatric Liver Transplant program at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, received a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH to continue studies on the adverse effects of parenteral nutrition (PN) or intravenous feeding.

PN is needed in patients when part or all of their digestive systems are not working properly due to injury or disease. Despite being life-saving treatment, it can cause severe side effects, such as liver and bowel disorders, that can be fatal. Dr. Jain’s research focuses on bile acid pathways, which are interrupted when nutrition is only given intravenously. In a clinical setting, he has found that these adverse side effects can be alleviated when some feeding is done via the gut, in order to maintain the normal gut and liver communication pathways.

Please see the full story in Newslink.

Joyce Koenig Receives Gerber Foundation Grant
January 7, 2016

Joyce Koenig, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, received a grant from the Gerber Foundation to study chorioamnionitis, which is an inflammation of the placenta in pregnant women.

Dr. Koenig will study the unique immune effects of chorioamnionitis on pregnant women and their babies. The condition is highly associated with preterm births but, because the pathology is poorly understood and because it rarely shows clinical symptoms, it is usually not diagnosed until well after birth. The researchers hope to understand what causes this condition so at-risk pregnancies can be identified prior to delivery.

Please see the full story in Newslink.

Investigators Search for Sepsis Biomarkers
December 17, 2015

David Ford, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, received a multi-PI, multi-center grant from the NIGMS entitled “Chlorinated lipids in sepsis.” Jane McHowat, Ph.D., of the Department of Pathology at SLU, is a Co-PI on the grant.

Other investigators on the proposal include Thomas Cho, Ph.D., of the Department of Biochemistry at SLU, and Ron Korthuis, Ph.D., of the Department of of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine.

The research will focus on determining the role of chlorinated lipids in vascular collapse and multiorgan failure during sepsis. These lipids are produced when leukocytes are activated following development of sepsis and can lead to endothelial dysfunction, platelet activation, and organ damage. They hope to find one or more biomarkers that can be used to determine when sepsis might develop, allowing for quicker diagnosis and treatment.

Please see the full story in Newslink.

Nicola Pozzi Awarded Arch Grant
November 18, 2015

Hemadvance, a biotechnology company started by Nicola Pozzi, Ph.D., Research Associate in the Department of Biochemistry, was awarded a $50,000 Arch Grant in the 2015 Winter Global Startup Competition. Hemadvance was one of 11 other companies that received grants. The mission of Hemadvance is to develop new ways to diagnose, manage, and treat cardiovascular disorders.

Arch Grants are awarded twice per year and aim to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs to the St. Louis area. The awardees were announced in several publications, including the St. Louis Business Journal.