UTHSCT researchers receive five seed grants totaling $115,000

Monday, March 12, 2012

Five seed grants totaling $115,000 have been awarded to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. The locally raised money will help UTHSCT researchers explore new cures for serious diseases, said Steven Idell, MD, Ph.D., UTHSCT’s vice president for research.

Hong-Long Ji, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry, was awarded a $40,000 grant to study the relationship between abnormal genes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Usha Pendurthi, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology, received $40,000 to fund her work into how certain proteins that curb blood clotting affect the growth of cancerous tumors.

Proteins are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs; each protein has unique functions. Hormones, enzymes, and antibodies are all examples of proteins.

Buka Samten, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology, and Malini Madiraju, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, were awarded $20,000 for preliminary research that could lead to a better vaccine against tuberculosis. That’s important, because TB kills more than a million people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Anna Kurdowska, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, received $10,000 for her research into a new way to treat acute lung injury, also known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). And Amir Shams, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology, received $5,000 to examine how to keep treatments for injured lungs inside those lungs.

“These grants enable our scientists to pursue new and exciting research that could change our understanding of how serious diseases develop, as well as transform how we treat them. They help our researchers acquire the preliminary data they need to successfully compete for funding from the National Institutes of Health, the gold standard in biomedical research,” Dr. Idell said, calling this year’s projects “outstanding.”

Funding for the seed grants comes from UTHSCT’s Research Council and the Texas Lung Injury Institute. Research Council members provide vital financial support to UTHSCT scientists, who use the seed grants to gather preliminary data needed to apply for larger grants from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health.

Since 2002, scientists in the Center for Biomedical Research have been awarded $118.6 million in research dollars.

For more than 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. UTHSCT’s annual operating budget of $125 million represents a major economic impact of over $287 million for the Northeast Texas region. As the academic health science center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education programs – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities throughout the region and beyond. UTHSCT is also the program sponsor of a residency program in internal medicine at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview.

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