Drs. Vanderpool, Knox Among 14 to Win ABRC Grant Awards Worth Total of Over $5.92 Million

Collage of ABRC logo, cactus and Drs. Rebecca Vanderpool and Ken KnoxThe University of Arizona Department of Medicine’s Rebecca Vanderpool, PhD, a research investigator with the UA Division of Translational and Regenerative Medicine, and pulmonologist Ken Knox, MD, have both been awarded three-year grants from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, a unit of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

They’re among 14 from the UA and UA Health Sciences to receive ABRC grant awards totaling more than $5.92 million.

The grants are split into Arizona Investigator Grants for senior researchers, with funding up to $250,000 a year, and New Investigator Awards for junior researchers, with funding of $75,000 a year.

Overall, 31 projects were awarded in this ABRC funding cycle for a total of $12,208,684 to be distributed over three years. The UA totals include recipients for both the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and Phoenix.

Markers for RV and PAH

Dr. Vanderpool, an assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering, is among the latter. She joined the faculty at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson in 2016, having earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering in 2010 at the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to the UA, she was a research scholar at the University of Pittsburgh’s Heart, Lung, Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute.

Her study focuses on determining biomarkers for right ventricular (RV) heart failure in those suffering from pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), which is the main cause of death in PAH patients.

Drs. Franz Rischard and Haiyang TangCo-investigators on her study include the DOM’s Franz Rischard, DO, Haiyang Tang, PhD, and Jason X.-J. Yuan, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and physiology, translational division chief, and UAHS associate vice president for translational health sciences.

Dr. Vanderpool said her research will leverage a UA Pulmonary Hypertension Registry of nearly 400 patients to systematically characterize hemodynamic markers of RV failure and use those markers to identify PAH patients, especially Hispanics in need of more effective therapies.

“RV function in Hispanics in the U.S. is largely unknown. The Pulmonary Hypertension program at the University of Arizona is a major regional referral center for treatment of PAH, and Hispanics constitute 25-50 percent of patients,” she added.

“This study will enable us to demonstrate a potential molecular link between endothelial PHD2/HIF-2α signaling pathway and the development of RV failure and a correlation between RV failure and severity of pulmonary dynamics in patients with PH.”

Dr. Jason X.-J. YuanShe expects the study’s results to serve as preliminary data for a larger NIH-NHLBI grant proposal.

“Dr. Vanderpool is a promising investigator who conducts trans- and inter-disciplinary research in the field of lung vascular pathobiology and pulmonary vascular disease,” said Dr. Yuan (right). “This grant will greatly help her develop a novel project that combines her expertise in physiology, biomedical bioengineering and genomics to investigate pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic interventions of pulmonary arterial hypertension and right heart failure.”

'Lung on a Leaf'

While Dr. Knox, previously chief, UA Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, is now professor and associate dean for faculty affairs at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, he maintains a secondary appointment and performs research with collaborators in the Department of Medicine in Tucson.

Drs. Frederic Zeinhausern, Ting Wang, Mrinalini Kala and Jerome LacombeCollege of Medicine – Phoenix co-investigators on Dr. Knox’s grant are Frederic Zenhausern, PhD, Ting Wang, PhD, Mrinalini Kala, PhD, and Jerome Lacombe, PhD.

Due to her expertise in “tissue bioengineering,” joining him on his study as a College of Medicine – Tucson co-investigator is Louise Hecker, PhD, an assistant professor in the UA Pulmonary division, a research investigator with the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System and a member of the UA BIO5 Institute.

Dr. Louise Hecker“This is a very exciting study because it combines the diverse expertise of a talented group of investigators to tackle a critical gap in the pulmonary field,” said Dr. Hecker (right).

Dr. Knox added, “If we are successful in our efforts to recellularize a common spinach leaf with a functioning human vasculature and epithelium, we will have a powerful and inexpensive platform for studying pulmonary inflammation.”

ABRC Awards for UA

Listed below, you’ll find studies for all of the ABRC Grant recipients listed alphabetically by department and/or college:

Arizona Investigator Grants:

  • Kenneth S. Knox, MD (Department of Medicine, UA College of Medicine – Phoenix & Tucson) received $750,000 for respiratory research entitled, “A Novel Ex-Vivo Leaf-Lung Model to Study Pulmonary Disease.”
  • Scott Sherman, MD, PhD (Department of Neurology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), $750,000 for the study, “Ketamine, A New Symptomatic Treatment for Parkinson's Disease.”
  • Sydney Rice, MD (Department of Pediatrics, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), $750,000 for the study, “Assessing the Causes, Epidemiology and Under-diagnosis of Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) in Arizonans.”
  • Todd Vanderah, PhD (Department of Pharmacology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), nearly $736,000 for “Novel Derivatives of Ang-(1-7) for the Treatment of Neuropathic and Cancer Pain.”
  • Katherine Ellingson, PhD (College of Public Health), nearly $387,000 for “Antibiotic Stewardship in Arizona Long-Term Care Facilities.”
  • Benjamin Renquist, PhD (School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), $749,933  – "Targeting the Cause of Type 2 Diabetes"

New Investigator Awards:

  • John Purdy, PhD (Department of Immunobiology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), $225,000 for “Targeting host metabolism during infection of two diverse viruses.”
  • Rebecca Vanderpool, PhD (joint appointment, UA Department of Medicine, UA College of Medicine – Tucson, and Department of Biomedical Engineering, UA College of Engineering), $225,000 for the study, “Diagnostic and Progressive Markers of RV (Right Ventricular) Failure in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.”
  • George Noutsios, PhD (Department of Otolaryngology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), $225,000 – "Surfactant Protein A as a New Therapeutic in Sinusitis"
  • Jennifer Andrews, PhD (Department of Pediatrics, UA College of Medicine – Tucson) $225,000 for the study, “Retrospective assessment of PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) Incidence.”
  • John Streicher, PhD (Department of Pharmacology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), $225,000 for the study, “Spinal Cord Heat Shock Protein 90: A New Target for Opioid Dose-Reduction.”
  • Tally Largent-Milnes, PhD (Department of Pharmacology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson), $224,925 for the study, “NHE1 at the Blood Brain Barrier: Implications for Anti-Migraine Therapy.”
  • Jun Wang, PhD (Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, UA College of Pharmacy), $225,000 for anti-virals for influenza study, “Discovery of Broad-Spectrum Influenza Antivirals to Combat Influenza Epidemics and Pandemics.”
  • Frank Duca, PhD (School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), $223,258 – "Role of the Small Intestine in the Prebiotic Treatment for Obesity"

About the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission
The Arizona Disease Control Research Commission was established by the Arizona Legislature and signed into law by Governor Bruce Babbitt in 1994. ADCRC’s mission was to fund investigators focused on diseases and health issues that impact the residents of Arizona. In 2005, this commission changed its name to the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission (ABRC). In 2011, ABRC was placed under direction of the Arizona Department of Health Services. Today, the mission and goals of ABRC are carried out through four key programs: Research Grants, Research Education, Biospecimen Locator, and Public Cord Blood. ABRC’s initiatives are guided by input from leaders and professionals from Arizona’s universities, nonprofit research institutions, hospitals and medical centers, and patient advocacy groups. Support is provided by valued community partners, Agency leadership, the Governor’s Office, and Legislators. Learn more here: http://azdhs.gov/biomedical/

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs approximately 4,000 people, has approximately 800 faculty members and garners more than $140 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook Twitter YouTube LinkedIn)

"UA Health Sciences and UA Researchers Awarded ABRC Grants Totaling Nearly $6M for Health Research" | Posted May 17, 2018
“Dr. Monica Kraft, 11 Other UAHS Investigators Secure ABRC Grant Awards Worth Nearly $6M” | Posted March 6, 2017

Release Date: 
04/24/2018 - 9:45am