College Awards Sixth and Final Round of Valley Research Partnership Grants

Kimberly A. Nichols, MLA
Kimberly A. Nichols, MLA

Nearly 50 researchers and trainees were awarded over $280,000 in grants in the sixth and final round of the Valley Research Partnership (VRP). Since 2015, the VRP has nurtured cross-institutional research collaborations to enhance discovery, extramural research funding, accelerate career development and improve health care. The funding has advanced research into translational neurological and psychiatric disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as various other health care challenges. In addition, it has provided resources to engage trainees — medical students, graduate students, fellows and postdocs — in biomedical research.

A total of $2.1 million in grants have been awarded over the six years. They have funded 86 Projects — one P3 Grant, 22 P2 Collaborative Grants, 54 P1A Trainee Grants and nine P1B Scholarly Project Grants. The P1 funding mechanism supported mentored research projects involving a faculty PI and a trainee. The P2 and P3 mechanisms were collaborative grants that included two faculty investigators from different VRP partnering institutions. Collectively, these grants have led to more than 50 publications and over 40 extramural grant submissions.

Co-investigators Thalachallour Mohanakumar, MD — chair of Translational Sciences at the Norton Thoracic Institute, Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center — and Steven Zangwill, MD — the medical director of heart transplant and heart failure at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a clinical professor of Child Health at the College of Medicine – Phoenix — were awarded a $50,000 grant. Their study will determine if cardiac transplantation (CTx) is the best treatment option for pediatric patients diagnosed with end stage heart failure. The VRP funds will enable the team to study the role of antibodies to Vimentin (autoimmunity) with respect to pediatric heart transplantation and to improve the prospective organ crossmatch to facilitate shorter wait times for patients. Pediatric patients often die waiting because there are no mechanical devices to sustain life for them.

“The resources provided by the VRP grant are essential for us to carry out this study. With support for materials and technical expertise to run the complex assays required, our study addresses an important and poorly understood clinical risk factor facing solid organ transplant recipients. Currently, little is known about the presence and clinical implications of antibodies directed against self-antigens such as Vimentin in the outcomes of pediatric heart transplant recipients,” said Steven Zangwill, MD.

“This study will allow us to characterize the frequency and natural history of these types of antibodies in a significant cohort of pediatric heart transplant recipients and begin to understand the relationship between these antibodies and clinical events such as rejection. This data has the potential to broaden the surveillance and improve outcomes for children after heart transplant and may form the basis for a larger multicenter study,” said Dr. Zangwill.

About the College

Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated 593 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and more than 2,400 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy.