UT Southwestern Circle of Friends awards research grants

By Sharon Reynolds

The UT Southwestern Circle of Friends, a donor engagement group which raises funds for biomedical research, recently awarded four early career research grants to promising clinician-scientists to further their investigations. The awards will support two Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute research teams and two individual cancer researchers at UT Southwestern.

Drs. Lukasz Joachimiak and Milo Lin

• The research team of Lukasz A. Joachimiak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and of Biochemistry, and Milo M. Lin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational, and Systems Biology, of Biophysics, and in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, is studying the tau protein – one of the two proteins most associated with Alzheimer’s – and developing a test for early detection and new drugs to treat the disease.

• The research team of Benjamin Greenberg, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics and Pediatrics, Andrew Young Koh, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology, and in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Xiaowei Zhan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of the Quantitative Biomedical Research Center in Clinical Sciences and of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense, is studying how microorganisms in the gut are different between patients with active multiple sclerosis and those in remission in order to develop a test for predicting the status and progression of the disease. This data could also help identify new therapeutic options to change the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Bo Li, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics and Immunology, is using genomics data integration techniques coupled with novel algorithm development to select genes preferentially overexpressed in malignant tissues. His research has the potential to identify previously unreported cancer-associated antigens and may lead to the development of better cancer vaccine therapies.

Maralice Conacci-Sorrell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, is studying the effects of diet on cancerous liver tumors. This research could become the basis for the development of a special diet, along with additional therapies, that can be used to treat patients with liver cancer.

From left: Dr. Andrew Young Koh, Patricia Plumb, RN, and Drs. Benjamin Greenberg and Xiaowei Zhan

In addition to providing research awards, the Circle of Friends purchased a heart monitor and ventilator for use during cardiac surgeries at UT Southwestern. Friends donors have generously supported early career scientists since 1985.

“The Circle of Friends are providing critical support for launching innovative early stage research projects that are designed to ultimately provide the basis for meaningful advancements in clinical care,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “This year’s O’Donnell Brain Institute pilot grants are the largest the
group has ever awarded for promising research efforts.

“The Friends are excited to learn about the latest medical breakthroughs from leading experts in research and patient care,” said John Levy, Co-Chair of the UT Southwestern Circle of Friends. “We are thrilled to be exposed to so many different focus areas throughout UT Southwestern and are pleased with the level of engagement opportunities during the year.”

“Friends actively supporting new cancer research opportunities at UT Southwestern have the privilege of seeing some of the best new ideas proposed by up-and-coming researchers to better understand cancer mechanisms that could ultimately lead to cures,” said John O’Dwyer, Circle of Friends Steering Committee member. “Being able to interact with these scientists and to share in their excitement about their work is a key highlight for many Friends donors. The Circle of Friends is in the enviable position of being able to provide the seed money that can kick off worthy projects that we hope will one day pay tremendous benefits.”

To learn more about the Circle of Friends, visit engage.utsouthwestern.edu/friends, or call the UT Southwestern Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 214-648-2344.

From left: Circle of Friends Steering Commitee memebers John and Dorothy O'Dwyer with Drs. Bo Li, Maralice Conacci-Sorrell, and Carlos Arteaga

Dr. Conacci-Sorrell is a Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar in Medical Research.

Dr. Greenberg is a Cain Denius Scholar in Mobility Disorders.

Dr. Joachimiak is an Effie Marie Cain Scholar in Medical Research.

Dr. Lin is a Cecil H. and Ida Green Endowed Scholar in Biomedical Computational Science.

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.




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