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BioSci – SOM Pilot Awards

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The BioSci-SOM pilot awards help faculty initiate innovative research projects in novel areas of investigation with the expectation that the principal investigators will subsequently submit extramural funding proposals. These awards are funded jointly by the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine.

The following teams received up to $50,000 to pursue their research projects.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

2018-2019 BioSci-SOM Pilot Awards


Neural Stem Cell Promotion of Blood Vessels in 3D Environments

Christopher Hughes, PhD, Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Lisa Flanagan, PhD, Associate Professor, Neurology

  • The PIs have created a 3-dimensional brain microphysiological system containing a biomaterial scaffold that mimics many properties of brain tissue. This platform provides a physiological setting in which to study stem cell-induced vessel formation in stroke.


A New Cellular Target for CNS Alzheimer Disease Studies

Mathew Blurton-Jones, PhD Associate Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior
Edwin Monuki, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Pathology and Lab Medicine
Kai Kessenbrock, PhD, Assistant Professor, Biological Chemistry
Qing Nie, PhD,
Chancellor’s Professor, Mathematics and Developmental and Cell Biology

  • Alzheimer Disease is driven by excessive accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides (Abeta) due to imbalanced Abeta production and clearance. This project examines human-derived choroid plexus epithelial cells using a new derivation protocol and assessing their potential for clearing Abeta.


Novel Links Between Wnt Signaling, Centrosomes, and Cancer

Lee Bardwell, PhD, Professor, Developmental and Cell Biology
Marian Waterman, PhD, Professor, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

  • This collaborative project aims to reveal new therapeutic opportunities for targeting the Wnt pathway in cancer, unexpected new connections between Wnt signaling and the maintenance of genome stability, and a novel mechanism by which the centrosome may communicate with the nucleus to regulate gene expression.


The Primary Cilium as a Host Defense Mechanism against Chlamydia

Christine Suetterlin, PhD, Associate Professor, Developmental and Cell Biology
Ming Tan, MD, Professor, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

  • This collaborative project between a cell biologist and an infectious disease physician scientist will study how human cells utilize the primary cilium as a novel host defense against Chlamydia, and how this intracellular bacterium counters with a mechanism to induce cilia loss.


Urban Greening Effects on Air Quality: Characterizing the Impact of Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds on Atmospheric Nanoparticle Toxicity

Celia Louise Braun Faiola, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Michael Kleinman, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Occupational and Environmental Medicine  

  • This project will compare toxicity of organic particles generated from various plant emission types in the presence and absence of urban pollutants and aims to establish a technique to provide guidance on selecting plants for urban greening programs that will minimize negative impacts of plant volatile emissions on urban air quality.



Clinical and Behavioral Investigations of Human Photopigment Opsin Gene Variations and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Cristina Kenney, Professor, Ophthalmology Research
Adriana Briscoe, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Kimberly A. Jameson, Project Scientist, Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences

  • This interdisciplinary project investigates clinical, biological and behavioral modeling impacts of human photopigment opsin gene mutations on AMD severity and risk, and aims to achieve innovative basic research advances and translate those advances to clinical assessment procedures.


Molecular and Imaging Approaches to Visualize Mechanotransduction in Human Neural Development

Medha Pathak, Assistant Professor, Physiology and Biophysics
Ian Parker, Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior

  • This project seeks to develop molecular and imaging approaches to answer a major question in developmental biology: how do cells transduce mechanical forces to shape biochemical and genetic programs?


Contribution of Hippocampal Dopamine to the Excessive Persistence of Pathological Memories

Stephen Mahler, Assistant Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior
Gary Lynch, Professor, Anatomy and Neurobiology

  • This project examines how significant emotional experiences enhance episodic memory formation and storage, and seeks to identify novel dopaminergic drug targets for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Microbial Community Composition following Fecal Transplant for Recurrent C. difficile Infection

Katrine Whiteson, Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Nimisha Parekh, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology

  • This project aims to improve understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effects of fecal microbiota transplants, which are known to be the most effective treatment for recurring Clostridia difficile infections.


Sports Related Concussion

James W. Hicks, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Steven L. Small, Professor, Neurology

  • Concussion is a large-scale and long-term health issue that lacks a clear definition. This project aims to produce a physiologically based definition of concussion for use in identifying and stratifying patients.