February/March 2023

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UC Davis School of Medicine achieves another record year in NIH funding

The 2022 Blue Ridge rankings have been released, making official the School of Medicine’s record-breaking year of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. The Blue Ridge Institute of Medical Research annually publishes this ranking of institutions, departments, and investigators based on NIH funding.

In 2022, UC Davis School of Medicine secured its highest-ever level of NIH funding at more than $201 million, an increase of about $7 million over the previous year. This achievement translates to an overall Blue Ridge ranking of 32 out 143 US medical schools, up from 33 last year. This marks the second year in a row that UC Davis moved up in the rankings. Nine School of Medicine departments ranked in the top 20 nationally in their respective fields. (Read more.)

The School of Medicine Departments ranked in the top 20 by funding this year are:

  • Public Health Sciences (#6)       
  • Urologic Surgery (#10) 
  • Neurology (#11)  
  • Dermatology (#14)   
  • Physiology and Membrane Biology (#14)   
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Science (#15)
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (#16)
  • Cell Biology and Human Anatomy (#17)
  • Pharmacology (#20)

Congratulations to all the amazing investigators who contributed to our success!


Craig McDonald, Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and his team will be honored with a 2023 Top Ten Clinical Research Achievement Award. The award is presented by the Clinical Research Forum. It is in recognition of McDonald’s remarkable work developing a stem cell therapy to treat the most severe patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The rare genetic disorder causes muscle loss and physical impairment in young people and leads to premature death.

McDonald is the national principal investigator leading HOPE-2, a multicenter double-blind randomized trial.

UC Davis Health Vice Dean for Research Kim E. Barrett nominated McDonald for this award. “We were delighted to nominate Dr. McDonald for this recognition and so pleased to learn of his selection as a Top 10 Clinical Research awardee,” said Barrett, distinguished professor of physiology and membrane biology at UC Davis. “His work has critical implications for treating patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is a great example of the caliber of research done at UC Davis Health.”

This is the second year in a row that a UC Davis School of Medicine researcher has been recognized by Clinical Research Forum as a top ten researcher. A ceremony for the awardees will be held on April 17.

Read more

Congratulations to the following faculty who were awarded 2022-2023 UC Davis Global Affairs research awards:

Seed Grants for International Activities

Public Health Sciences, Kristen Aiemjoy, Pediatric Scrub Typhus in Nepal: a new research collaboration with Kanti Children’s Hospital.

Grants for Advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals

Internal Medicine, Jennifer Lane and Michael Wilkes, Place-Based, One Health Experiential Education: A Platform for Inspiring Action in Tackling Complex Global Challenges to Achieve SDGs.

Impactful Publications

Fereydoun Hormozdiari, associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular medicine, has co-authored a study published in Nature Methods, “SVDSS: structural variation discovery in hard-to-call genomic regions using sample-specific strings from accurate long reads.” Structural variants (SVs) account for a large amount of sequence variability across genomes and play an important role in human diversity and susceptibility to disease, but their discovery is made difficult by redundancies and duplications in the genome. This article describes new technologies that show notable improvements in the ability to discover SVs in repetitive regions of the genome.

In a study published in JAMA Network Open, a team of researchers analyzed more than two dozen residency programs across the country that employ strategies to boost diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The team then compiled their findings to share widely with Graduate Medical Education (GME) programs seeking to diversify the physician workforce. UC Davis co-authors of this study include Stephany Sanchez (pictured), associate professor of internal medicine, Tonya Fancher, associate dean for workforce innovation and education quality improvement, Arra Jane Soriano, workforce programs manager; Marjorie Westervelt, former director of the assessment, evaluation, and scholarship unit and Maya London, a second-year medical student. 

Read more

David E. Olson, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine and director of the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics at UC Davis, is senior author of a paper published in Science, In this study, researchers at the University of California, Davis show that engaging serotonin 2A receptors inside neurons promotes growth of new connections but engaging the same receptor on the surface of nerve cells does not. The findings will help guide efforts to discover new drugs for depression, PTSD and other disorders.

Read more

Featured Research: Department of Neurology

With over $34 million in NIH funding in fiscal year 2021-2022, the Department of Neurology was the top-funded UC Davis School of Medicine department and one of the main drivers of the medical school’s increase in national research ranking last year. Neuroscientific research covers a wide range of topics and diseases, from rare autoimmune disorders such as Myasthenia gravis and Lambert-Eaton to more commonly known conditions like multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. This year, the department’s research again played a critical role in the school of medicine’s record-breaking NIH funding, and ranks 11th among neurology departments nationally.

Read More

March is Multiple Sclerosis

Awareness Month

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable neurological disease that can affect people of all ages. Symptoms usually include impaired muscle control, weakness, and/or vision problems, and they can range from mild to debilitating. Symptoms can also be intermittent, chronic, or slowly progressive. Because of this variability, MS can be difficult to diagnose correctly.

The UC Davis Department of Neurology provides expert diagnosis and treatment for patients with MS. The faculty also conduct both basic research and clinical research studies for MS that are aimed at developing new treatments.

Current MS Research at UC Davis

Professor David Richman was awarded a grant by the Muscular Dystrophy Association to study improved treatment for autoimmune disorders, including MS and MG, that uses engineered immune cells (T cells) to target just the malfunctioning portion of the immune system. Current treatments target the entire system.

UC Davis Spine Center

Neurologists are among the specialists who contribute to the success of the UC Davis Spine Center, the most active spinal cord injury clinical trial program in California, if not the nation. As part of the region’s only academic medical center, the spine center offers patients of all ages access to dedicated physicians who are actively involved in the latest spine research and clinical trials, and to new and investigational diagnostics and treatments.

Kee Kim, chief of spinal neurosurgery and co-director of the center, explains, “Our work wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated team of residents, fellows, advanced practice providers, clinical research coordinators, and spine colleagues. We work together to make significant contributions to improve the lives of our injured and paralyzed patients. It wouldn’t be possible without our team effort.”

Kim is leading a randomized study testing a new treatment to regenerate the spinal cord. Researchers hope it will lead to improvement in spinal cord function.  

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Research News

National Center for Metabolic Phenotyping of Mouse Models of Obesity and Diabetes (MPMOD)

The UC Davis Health Department of Surgery has received $3.75 million to launch a high-profile center where researchers can study metabolic disorders using mouse models. The goal is to learn more about the same diseases in humans. The new funding will advance this research. It will allow researchers to measure the impacts of diabetes, obesity, and other related metabolic disorders on laboratory mice that have been manipulated to model metabolic diseases in humans.

UC Davis Health researchers will collaborate with four university centers across the nation in this effort. The others include the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Yale University and Augusta University.

Also included in the funding is support for a pilot program called MPMOD Vibrant. This initiative seeks to provide resources, training and advice to early career scientists. A major focus will be on studies at institutions that serve faculty and trainees historically underrepresented in biomedical research.

Read more

The Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics

UC Davis has launched a new institute to advance basic knowledge about the mechanisms of psychedelics and translate it into safe and effective treatments for diseases such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, among others. The Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics will bring together scientists across a range of disciplines and partner with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that key discoveries lead to new medicines for patients.

“Psychedelics have a unique ability to produce long-lasting changes in the brain that are relevant to treating numerous conditions,” said David E. Olson, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at UC Davis. “If we can harness those beneficial properties while engineering molecules that are safer and more scalable, we can help a lot of people.”

The institute is organizing the Psychedelic Summit, to be held on March 23, 2023. Registration information.

Read more

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