Researcher Presents Her Poster to an Attendee
Researcher Presents Her Poster to an Attendee

Valley Research Partnership Awards Fourth Round of Funding

Teresa Joseph
Teresa Joseph
Researcher Presents Her Poster to an Attendee
Researcher Presents Her Poster to an Attendee
Research Projects are Meant to Increase Collaboration and Engage Trainees

The Valley Research Partnership has awarded $210,000 in grants to support collaborative research by scientists and clinicians throughout the Phoenix area.

The grants, developed by the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and four of its clinical partners, are meant to develop cross-institutional research collaborations to enhance extramural research funding, accelerate career development and discovery and improve health care.

The program has awarded $1.59 million to 48 research projects across the Valley in four rounds of funding. Collectively, these grants have led to more than 30 publications and 28 extramural grant submissions. In the latest round, three $50,000 grants were awarded to collaborative projects for faculty principal investigators and six mentored projects for students, post-docs and residents each received $10,000.

“The Valley Research Partnership is an ongoing effort by Phoenix metro area hospitals and the College of Medicine – Phoenix to stimulate research and academic pursuit,” said Paul Boehmer, PhD, interim associate dean of research at the college. “This is a very important mechanism through which we support collaborative projects to allow those to get started, with the desire that they translate into larger extramural grants.”

Partnering institutions include the College of Medicine – Phoenix, Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, Dignity Health, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Maricopa Integrated Health System.

Fourth-round awardees include Dong Wang, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the college, and Gregory Turner, PhD, at Dignity Health, who received $50,000 to study “the novel role and underlying mechanism of corin in modulating cardiomyocyte survival after ischemic injury in heart.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Arizona, affecting 4.8 percent of Arizonans in 2018. Corin is an enzyme primarily in the heart which can generate mature hormones, and subsequently regulate the salt-water balance in the body.

Based on their preliminary studies, Drs. Wang and Turner want to define the fundamental role of corin in ischemic heart disease, such as a heart attack, and to investigate how corin protects heart muscle cells from death after such an injury occurs.

“Given the current status and future expectation of heart attack in Arizona, we, from both clinical and basic research, should move forward in making advances and trying to identify new therapeutic targets and strategies for better outcomes for these patients,” Dr. Wang said. “Our study will bridge the gap in understanding the connection between corin and clinical outcomes, address a crucial question about the role of corin after cardiac ischemic injury, and reveal novel, mechanistic insights into corin’s protective effects in ischemic heart disease.”

Dr. Wang said the grant will allow the researchers to combine molecular biochemical methods with cardiac magnetic resonance imaging/positron emission tomography (MRI/PET) imaging and provide a multi-dimensional “window” to dissect events in the heart. With the support of this grant, they will generate preliminary data and they expect to pursue future funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Round Four Awardees

Investigator Names Type Title of the Project Funding

Ella Nikulina, PhD – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Associate Professor, Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Megan Rudolph, MS – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Research Intern, Department of Basic Medical Sciences

P1

Elucidating the Neuronal Circuitry Underlying Social Stress-Induced Psychostimulant Sensitivity

$10,000
Jerome Lacombe, PhD – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine

Ashlee Harris, PhD – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, PhD Student, Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine
P1

Exploration of Plant-Based Scaffolds to Generate Engineered Skin Substitutes

$10,000
Karen Hastings, MD, PhD – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Associate Professor, Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Jesse Washnock-Schmid – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, MS Student, Department of Basic Medical Sciences
P1

The Role of MHC-II in Melanoma on Regulating the Anti-Tumor Immune Response

$10,000
Rachel Rowe, PhD – Assistant Professor, Translational Neurotrauma Research Program, Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and the UA College of Medicine –  Phoenix, Department of Child Health

J. Bryce Ortiz, PhD – Postdoctoral Fellow, Translational Neurotrauma Research Program, Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Department of Child Health
P1

Integrated Analyses of the Bidirectional Relationship between the Growth Hormone Axis and Sleep Following Juvenile TBI

$10,000

Shalini Sharma, PhD  UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Assistant Professor, Department of Basic Medical Sciences

William Martelly – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Graduate Student Intern, Department of Basic Medical Sciences
P1

Understanding Functions of the Myelodysplastic Syndrome Associated Splicing Factor SF3A1

$10,000

Theresa Thomas, PhD – Assistant Professor, Translational Neurotrauma Research Program, Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Department of Child Health​

Gokul Krishna, PhD  Postdoctoral Research Associate I, Translational Neurotrauma Research Program, Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Department of Child Health

P1

Late-Onset Traumatic Brain Injury-Induced Anxiety-Like Behavior is Mediated through Changes in Gut Microbiota

$10,000

Dong Wang, MD, PhD  UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Gregory Turner, PhD – Dignity Health, Program Manager, Preclinical Imaging, Keller Center for Imaging Innovation at Barrow Neurological Institute

P2

The Novel Role and Underlying Mechanism of Corin in Modulating Cardiomyocyte Survival after Ischemic Injury in Heart

$50,000
Taben Mary Hale, PhD – UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Associate Professor, Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Richard Frye, MD, PhD – Phoenix Children's Hospital, Professor, Department of Child Health
P2

Protecting cardiac and skeletal muscle against pediatric cancer chemotherapy: Understanding and unlocking new pathways

$50,000
Varina Boerwinkle, MD – Phoenix Children's Hospital, Associate Professor of Neurology

Francisco Ponce, MD – Barrow Neurological Institute, Dignity Health
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
P2

Cerebral Palsy Interventions Elucidated by Resting State Functional MRI

$50,000

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 669 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and more than 2,600 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Bioscience Core, 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.