UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS BACKS INTER-CAMPUS RESEARCH TEAMS WITH LIFE SCIENCES MOMENT FUND

Grants support clinical and translational research collaborations across campuses

March 16, 2009

WORCESTER, Mass. – WORCESTER, Mass.— Five teams of inter-campus researchers at the University of Massachusetts were awarded $750,000 from the Life Sciences Moment Fund, which is dedicated to supporting life sciences research with clinical and translational potential.

Part of the University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science, the $1 million Life Sciences Moment Fund seeks to accelerate the timeline for bringing basic scientific research findings to the bedside by leveraging expertise from each of the five UMass campuses to develop new and promising research partnerships.

“The strength of the Life Sciences Moment Fund comes from its catalytic nature to spur inter-campus collaboration that otherwise would not have occurred,” said Michael F. Collins, MD, Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences for the University and Chancellor of UMass Medical School. “What has transpired – senior investigators coming together around specific research questions – bodes well for the downstream impact of this funding.”

To be considered for funding, proposals had to be inter-campus collaborations and include a faculty member from the Medical School.

Funded projects include:

  • Patricia Wadsworth, PhD, professor of biology at UMass Amherst, and Stephen J. Doxsey, PhD, professor of molecular medicine and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and cell biology at UMass Medical School, will explore the cellular processes that lead to extreme dwarfism, which could lead to potential drug treatments or surgical intervention.
  • William Kiernan, PhD, adjunct professor and Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston, Jean A. Frazier, MD, the Robert M. and Shirley S. Siff Chair and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UMass Medical School, and Maryann Davis, PhD, research associate professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School, will establish a program within the Medical School to provide pre-employment training for young adults with Asperger’s Disorder.
  • Sankaran Thayumanavan, PhD, professor of chemistry at UMass Amherst, and Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research and professor of molecular medicine and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMass Medical School, will collaborate on the development of methods for targeting the delivery of siRNAs to human cells, with a specific emphasis on developing therapeutics for cancer treatment.
  • Handelman, PhD, professor of nutrition at UMass Lowell, and Lori Pbert, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMass Medical School, will develop a community partnership in Lowell to help prevent type-2 diabetes in high-risk youth.
  • Barbara Osborne, PhD, professor of immunology at UMass Amherst, and Michelle A. Kelliher, PhD, associate professor of cancer biology and molecular genetics & microbiology at UMass Medical School, will develop targeted therapies for T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“I welcome the opportunity to participate in the Life Sciences Moment Fund program, which has made possible a wonderfully exciting collaborative partnership between the Lowell and Worcester campuses,” said Dr. Handelman. “Working together with our community partners, we can make a real difference in the lives of the children who are at risk for developing diabetes.”

Proposals were reviewed and selected by the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science’s steering committee and received $100,000 to $200,000 in initial funding. Results from many of these projects will be used as the basis for additional grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sources.

“We selected five strong proposals that represent the varied but complementary expertise existing across the UMass campuses,” commented John L. Sullivan, MD, Director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Vice Provost for Research at the Medical School. “The continuum of the translational pipeline is captured well in the funded projects.”

Life Sciences Moment Fund
A key recommendation from the work of the University of Massachusetts Life Sciences Task Force, the Life Sciences Moment Fund is supported by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and seeks to bring together UMass investigators with the goal of accelerating the pace of discovery and technology development on the campuses while strengthening the University’s research enterprise. The Life Sciences Moment Fund is a programmatic component of the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science and complements University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson’s highly successful Science and Technology Fund.

University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science
The University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UMCCTS), which serves as the “home” for clinical and translational investigators throughout the university system, provides essential resources to support a vibrant clinical and translational research enterprise capable of translating scientific discoveries into clinical applications. For more information on the UMCCTS, please visit http://www.umassmed.edu/content.aspx?id=4294.