BU-CTSI Spring 2017 Pilot Awardees  
Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (BU-CTSI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the Spring 2017 Integrated Pilot Grant Program.  This cycle we received 47 applications, 22 applicants were awarded, including 12 deferred from fall 2016. Each awardee received $20,000 in funding . The CTSI would like to recognize the faculty who reviewed the applicants and offer our sincere thanks for their time and efforts.

The purpose of the Integrated Pilot Grant Award mechanism is to stimulate scientific discovery in all areas of basic or translational research related to the prevention, diagnosis, and management of human disease.  
Congratulations to:

Naomi Steiner, MD
Our long term goal is to translate to practice simple, low cost, assistive technologies (HRV biofeedback together with mobile health tools) to teach relaxation breathing in our pediatric clinic setting following a trauma-informed care model. For our pilot study we suggest to maximize our mobile health approach by including both a mobile app for relaxation breathing skills and reminder text messages in our at-risk target population.

Nader Rahimi, PhD
The purpose of this pilot CTSI grant proposal is to investigate the novel tumor suppressor function of TMIGD1 in renal cancer and possible therapeutic strategy. Renal cell carcinoma is one of the most common and lethal forms of renal cancers and also is a high-risk metastasizing tumor with a poor prognosis. Treatment remains highly challenging as renal cell carcinoma is an intrinsically chemo/radiotherapy-resistant cancer.

Joel Henderson, MD, PhD
The goal of this study is to evaluate the utility of urine podocyte measurement, or podometrics, in biobanked urine specimens from the Framingham Heart Study. Podocytes are kidney epithelial cells that are critical to the formation and maintenance of the kidney filtration system. Their loss and accumulation in the urine under conditions of stress indicates damage to the kidney filter, and is a critical step in the eventual development of progressive chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Konstantin Kandror, PhD
Changes in lipid metabolism can underlie extended lifespan. The goal of our proposal is to identify critical and conserved regulators of lipid metabolism that are required for increased longevity in established long lived nematode models.

Lucia Plant, PhD
The objective of our research program is to identify new therapeutic interventions to prevent or reverse pancreatic ß-cell dysfunction caused by nutrient overload. The CTSI pilot fund will allow us to specifically address the role of the lipid kinase PIP4kgamma in the metabolic adaptation of pancreatic ß-cells to excess sugar.

Honghuang Lin, PhD
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the world. The proposed study aims to explore new e-health devices to monitor cognitive function, which might be able to detect early signs of cognitive impairment. We will also develop novel machine learning based methods to analyze these cognitive related "big data."

Valentina Perissi, PhD
The Perissi lab at Boston University School of Medicine is broadly interested in the role of non-proteolytic ubiquitination in the regulation of inflammation and cell metabolism. Ongoing studies in the lab focus on adipose tissue and immune cells. With the support of this Pilot Award, the lab will investigate the regulation of mitochondria biogenesis through of mitochondrial retrograde signaling in skeletal muscle.

Kei Suzuki, MD
The current standard of care for stage I lung cancer patients is surgical resection alone. Yet, in 1 in 4 patients, the cancer comes back within 5 years. In this study, our goal is to derive a "score" based on the immune response that can predict outcome in early-stage lung cancer patients. The ultimate goal is to add an immune dimension to the current assessment of lung adenocarcinoma.

Paola Divieti Pajevic, MD, PhD
Using genetically modified animal models and cell lines we demonstrated that osteocytes secrete factors capable of regulating hematopoiesis, skeletal metabolism and adipose tissue and that these factors are regulated by the intracellular protein Gsα. Preliminary work, done in collaboration with Prof. Mark E. McComb, identified several unique secreted proteins in conditioned medium of osteocytes lacking Gsα expression. Support from the CTSI will allow us to expand these initial findings by performing multiplexed-quantitative proteomic analysesof conditioned medium from these cells and from bone marrow supernatant (BMS) of mice lacking expression of Gsα in osteocytes (DMP1-Cre:Gsαfl/fl).

Xaralabos Barelas, PhD
Dr. Varelas' lab will be studying signals contributing to the initiation and development of squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, a major subtype of non-small cell lung cancer and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths world-wide. Dr. Varelas' group has found that factors controlling bronchial cell architecture are aberrantly regulated early in cancer development, and plans to use genetic and molecular approaches to investigate how dysregulation of architectural-regulated signals affect lung homeostasis and disease onset.

William Johnson, PhD
The upper respiratory tract is the first line of defense against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection and disease. We suspect there are important differences in microbial community composition and host gene expression in airway specimens that distinguish infected and uninfected individuals. We will profile the microbial community dynamics and host gene expression in the the airway to seek a better understanding of how the upper respiratory microbiome shapes host innate immune response to defend against MTB infection and disease

Deborah Lang, PhD
Melanoma is a very aggressive cancer that is highly adaptive in developing resistance to present therapeutics. In our proposal, we focus on how these cancer cells escape drug targeting by altering their cellular characteristics and molecules they express. Insights into the molecular mechanisms for how melanoma cells evade drug targeting will reveal tumor cell vulnerabilities to exploit for novel combination therapeutic approaches.

Steven Borkan, MD, PhD
The goal of our research is to identify significant cellular pathways that mediate antibiotic-induced AKI and to re-purpose available pathway-specific drugs to prevent and treat disease. We hypothesize that a high-throughput interference RNA screen will identify clinically relevant gene targets that can be readily matched to available target-modulating drugs and tested in and disease models. We also hypothesize that drugs that alter injurious cellular pathways or augment protective ones will alter the disease phenotype, improve renal function and increase survival.

March LaRochelle, MD, MPH
Mortality and morbidity due to opioids have reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and Massachusetts has been particularly affected. We propose to use a novel, individually-linked, population level database in Massachusetts known as Chapter 55 to: identify touchpoints that represent opportunities to identify and intervene on individuals with high-risk for opioid overdose, and determine the association of treatment with medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) with opioid-related overdose and all-cause mortality following these high-risk touchpoints.

Shayna Sarosiek, MD
This project will use BH3 profiling to study the clonal population of cells in AL amyloidosis to learn about apoptotic dependencies of these cells and determine if therapeutics targeting apoptotic pathways could potentially be used in the future treatment of patients with AL amyloidosis.

Finn Hawkins, MBBS
My research focus is to develop human induced pluripotent stem cells as a platform to study lung disease. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be routinely generated from a blood sample or skin biopsy. These skin or blood cells are reprogrammed into cells that are very similar to embryonic stem cells including sharing their remarkable capacity to form almost any cell type in the body. iPSCs have several advantages over ESCs; they can be generated from any individual, they retain an individual's unique genetic make up and they avoid the ethical and legal issues surrounding the study of embryonic tissue.

Somphit Chinkam, MD, MPH
This study will identify information needs, develop an educational curriculum, and inform the design of decision support strategies appropriate for Haitian Creole speaking women giving birth in Boston who have had previous cesareans.

Daniel Remick, MD
Antibiotic resistance has become an important problem with few new antibiotics approved in the past 10 years. Prior work in the lab has shown that it is possible to stimulate the innate immune system so that the white blood cells eradicate bacteria more effectively. Giving mice a drug that activates the substance P receptor activates the cells so that they are more effective at eliminating bacteria in the lungs. This is essentially a new way of treating pneumonia.

Chris Shanahan, MD, MPH & Jane Liebschutz, MD, MPH
Prescription opioid misuse is a major public health problem and the single largest source of misused opioids comes from legitimate prescriptions. Drs. Shanahan and Liebschutz from BMC's Section of General Internal Medicine have received funding from Boston University's CTSI to conduct a pilot study to systematically analyze expert Orthopaedic surgeon opinions on post-operative opioid prescribing for ambulatory surgery. This pilot study builds on their previous work which characterized post-operative opioid prescribing practices of surgeons of patients undergoing elective ambulatory surgery at Boston Medical Center.

Pablo Buitron de la Vega, MD, MSc
Social determinants of health can significantly affect health outcomes in patients with chronic diseases. At Boston Medical Center there has been longstanding recognition of the role and importance of SDOH on health and health disparities. Yet, there have been few systematic and sustained clinical strategies and processes for addressing SDOH. A new patient-centered model of SDOH screening and referral to community resources has been pioneered in BMC Pediatrics and we have adapted this process for the adult general internal medicine (GIM) environment. The pilot found that 63% patients screened positive for one or more SDOH domains. In order to expand this work, we will be using CTSI funds to conduct an Electronic Medical Record SDOH screening pilot to examine the effects of screening and referral process, on patients' connections to community resources, and ultimately, the effects of both types of screening and referral on clinical outcomes.

Sudhir Sivakumaran, PhD
"Enhancement of post-stroke functional recovery by exosomes: cellular mechanisms".

Joyce Wong, PhD & Joshua Kim, PhD
The goal of our project is to develop a patch to repair damage to blood vessels that often occurs during endovascular procedures that restore blood flow to blocked vessels. Our patch is designed to accelerate blood vessel healing.

Help us continue our support by citing our grant number
in relevant publications:   1UL1TR001430 

All publications resulting from the utilization of CTSI resources are required to credit the CTSI grant by including the NIH Funding acknowledgment and must comply with NIH Public Access Policy.

Boston University  Clinical & Translational Science Institute
Accelerating Discoveries Towards Better Health 

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