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Seed Fund for Innovative Research Supports Faculty in 6 Departments

Published October 11, 2016

Eight faculty members from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are conducting research supported by the Innovative Micro-Programs Accelerating Collaboration in Themes (IMPACT) program.

“The IMPACT program supports cutting-edge research throughout the university, not just one particular discipline. We’re focused on projects that are new and innovative.”
Kenneth M. Tramposch, PhD
Senior associate vice president for research

The awards are intended to encourage collaboration among researchers while serving as a springboard to external funding. A revolving review panel of faculty members selects the winning projects, which must be one year or less in duration. Each receives up to $35,000.

“Without the support of the IMPACT funding, our project would not go forward. It is a new direction for us, and so the generation of preliminary data is crucial for success in our attempts to attract external funding,” says Stewart Clark, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, the principal investigator on a project currently funded by the IMPACT program.

“I encourage all faculty to consider applying for this funding opportunity,” he adds.

Bogdan Beirowski, MD, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry, a principal investigator on another project, says the award helps faculty collaborate on an interdisciplinary level to kick-start projects. “I am very grateful that I received the IMPACT seed funding,” he emphasizes.

The IMPACT program, launched two years ago, is administered through the University at Buffalo’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

Med School Faculty Involved in 6 of 10 Funded Projects

Fifty-eight proposals were submitted for the fifth round of IMPACT awards. 

Out of 10 projects approved to receive funding from July 2016 to July 2017, six projects have principal investigators or collaborators from the school of medicine:

Regulation of the Urotensin II receptor function by arginine methylation

This proposal will build on a previous collaboration between the researchers, whose study on the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) known as dopamine receptor subtype 2 (DRD2) was the first to show that GPCR function is regulated by methylation.

Other GPCRs are likely regulated in a similar manner, which may provide novel ways of modulating a class of receptor that are the therapeutic target of at least 30 percent of current pharmaceuticals.                             

Researchers will conduct experiments that will help determine whether the regulation of a GPCR function by methylation is a more common phenomenon. They will also make steps in translating these discoveries into applicable animal models.

Project team: 

Characterizing abnormal lipid metabolism in glia with failed axonal support function

Axons are the longest processes of neurons relaying electrical and biochemical information, and they are essential for normal function of the nervous system. Axonal degeneration is a key component of irreversible neurological disability in many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Current models suggest the possibility that deficits in glial lipid metabolism lead to axonal degeneration. Researchers propose employing a global lipidomics approach to screen for alterations in glial lipid intermediate species downstream of LKB1  — a metabolic master regulator — signaling associated with axon degeneration.

Project team: 

  • Bogdan Beirowski, MD, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry
  • G. Ekin Atilla-Gokcumen, PhD, Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Elisabetta Babetto, PhD, senior research scientist in the Department of Biochemistry and research assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology

OneBioStore: Distributed smart storage and scalable algorithms for collaborative biomedical discovery

This project aims to develop a new model for handling large-scale data in biomedical research by seamlessly and transparently integrating diverse and scattered biomedical assets and combining them with scalable data processing capabilities.

Project team: 

Minimizing the infection contamination areas for health care workers in wearing gowns via a behavioral experiment and computational models

About one in every 20 hospital patients has a health care-associated infection, or HAI.

One main reason for HAI is contamination of personal protection equipment (PPE). PPE includes isolation gowns that health care workers wear to protect their skin and clothing from contamination when interacting with patients. 

Researchers will conduct a behavioral experiment with health care workers to select the relatively best design of gowns on the market to minimize contamination areas on the neck.

They’ll also build the first set of computational models to quantify and predict the contamination areas given different designs of gowns, health care workers’ levels of PPE training and donning and removal protocols.

The team will then apply the model in practice to minimize the contamination areas on health care workers’ necks.

Project team: 

Increasing exercise enjoyment and outcome expectations among women with obesity

Despite decades of physical activity research on inactive, obese individuals, scientists have not been successful at stimulating exercise participation in this population.

The researchers propose a novel approach to increasing exercise participation in obese women by focusing on exercise enjoyment and increasing appreciation of the proximal benefits of physical activity — rather than focusing on weight. They also propose to address changes to the exercise environment to make it conducive to this population.

The team will partner with the YMCA, which will allow them to make changes to a typical exercise context while ensuring that their findings can be used to help exercise focused community organizations implement a scalable, research-tested program.

Project team:

Assessing the utility of face cooling to maintain blood pressure during hemorrhagic injury

Hemorrhage is the leading cause of death from civilian and battlefield trauma. While pre-hospital interventions have been shown to delay a precipitous drop in blood pressure during a hemorrhagic injury, they aren’t practical for use in the field.

The research team will attempt to find out whether a simpler method — face cooling — increases blood pressure for a clinically meaningful period of time. They will also attempt to learn whether this method is effective in raising or maintaining blood pressure during hemorrhage.

Project team: 

  • Three members of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Professions: Zachary Schlader, PhD; Blair Johnson, PhD; and David Hostler, PhD
  • Brian Clemency, DO, MBA, associate professor of emergency medicine
  • Gregory Wilding, PhD, Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Health Professions

IMPACT Funds ‘Vast Array of Exciting Projects’

“The IMPACT program supports cutting-edge research throughout the university, not just one particular discipline. We’re focused on projects that are new and innovative,” says Kenneth M. Tramposch, PhD, senior associate vice president for research at UB.

“It’s a highly competitive program with only 15 to 20 percent of submitted proposals winning awards. Our faculty reviewers always say it’s difficult to choose, but they are always encouraged to learn that their colleagues are planning such a vast array of exciting projects,” says Tramposch.

Projects outside the school of medicine cover a range of topics:

  • Laboratory assessment of behaviors in occupational roles: An analogue setting to investigate job functioning and treatments for individuals with ADHD
  • 3D printing to create integrated 3D protein microarrays
  • Improved dental restorative materials using novel antibacterial polymer surfactants
  • Engineering photocatalysts for clean H2 generation