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UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science awards seven new pilot grants

By Sarah Willey

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

February 07, 2022

The UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UMCCTS) has awarded seven pilot grants to faculty and research collaborators to accelerate the translation of basic discoveries into practical, cost-effective solutions that improve human health.

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One-year grants have been awarded to seven projects,
four of which include research collaborations with other institutions.

“The UMCCTS pilot programs are one of our most popular services and have some of the most exciting long-term impact. We’re pleased to support these innovative projects that serve as springboards for additional advances in clinical and translational research,” said Nate Hafer, PhD, associate professor of molecular medicine and director of operations for UMCCTS.

Four of the seven projects funded by the Pilot Project Program involve collaborative research with other institutions, including UMass Amherst and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The grants will fund research in a wide range of areas, such as the study of a novel small molecule STING agonist against SARS-CoV-2 infection and the study of why the immune system attacks some pancreatic insulin-producing cells in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

One-year grants have been awarded to each of the projects below.

Automatic wide-field optical imaging for transplant organ viability assessment
Babak Movahedi, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery
Yu Chen, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, UMass Amherst
Haichong Zhang, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

This project will allow researchers to expand their work into a new area of robotic-assisted optical imaging of transplant organs to predict their viability.

STING agonism for the treatment of COVID-19
Katherine A. Fitzgerald, PhD, the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair, professor of medicine, vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine and director of the Program in Innate Immunity
Fiachra Emanuel Humphries, PhD, instructor in medicine

This study will help advance research of a novel small molecule STING agonist against Sars-CoV2 infection.

Correction of defective splicing in fragile X syndrome with therapeutic potential
Joel Richter, PhD, the Arthur F. Koskinas Chair in Neuroscience and professor of molecular medicine

The project will help researchers better understand fragile X syndrome and its associated disorders in an effort to develop effective treatments for the inherited illness.

Isolated single islet studies to define the factors underlying the heterogeneity of islet and peri-islet lymphocytic infiltration in human type 1 diabetes
David M. Harlan, MD, the William and Doris Krupp professor of medicine, professor of medicine and co-director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence
Sally C. Kent, PhD, the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation Term Chair in Diabetes and associate professor of medicine
Sambra Redick, PhD, senior scientist in the Diabetes Center of Excellence
Yihao Zheng, PhD, assistant professor in biomedical engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Researchers will continue to explore a question that has vexed type 1 diabetes investigators for decades: why the immune system attacks some pancreatic insulin-producing cells in individuals with type 1 diabetes and leaves other insulin-producing cells unscathed.

Dissecting optical coherence tomography features to predict risk of future advanced age-related macular degeneration
Tianxiao Huan, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences
Johanna Seddon, MD, ScM, professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences and director of the Macular Degeneration Center of Excellence
Yu Chen, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, UMass Amherst

This study will allow scientists to expand their work into bridging the knowledge gap by linking clinical and genetic risk factors with retinal morphology of age-related macular degeneration.

A deep learning-based, real-time vascular anatomy assessment tool for emergency stroke interventions
Anna Kuhn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiology
Mohammed Salman Shazeeb, PhD, assistant professor of radiology
Clifford Lindsay, PhD, assistant professor of radiology

Researchers will expand research into critically important stroke interventions.

Tinnitus characterization using reverse correlation with applications to retraining therapies
Divya A. Chari, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology
Adam Lammert, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Researchers will work to validate a novel approach to characterizing tinnitus. The approach has the potential to become a clinical assay used to improve primary treatment options for more than 50 million people in the U.S. suffering from tinnitus.