The Department continues to support an environment that is enriched by the open and candid exchange of opinions and perspectives. I have had conversations with many of you about the impact of the recent executive orders regarding immigration and refugees. Whereas all of the implications of this action are not clear, we recognize the potential impact of these regulations on current or prospective students, trainees and faculty, to conduct collaborative research and even to care for patients who travel to see us. Although dramatically divergent perspectives are being debated in the public sphere, it is important to emphasize that our Department is committed to a mission of compassion and excellence in all of our missions, which we believe transcends race, religion, and country of origin. The College, the University, and many of our professional societies have weighed in to share their concerns and have provided resources that seek to keep those most affected by these changes informed and supported. The Department and its leadership are available to support any of our colleagues who might be impacted and we encourage you to continue to reach out to us.
It was my great pleasure recently to announce the appointment of Dr. Chris Adams to the newly endowed Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Chair. Much has already been said about his qualifications and even more about the importance of the research Dr. Adams and his lab are conducting. I believe Dr. Adams’ discoveries hold great promise for better understanding the mechanisms behind skeletal muscle atrophy and potential therapeutic strategies. Skeletal muscle atrophy is a common co-morbidity of many chronic disorders associated with aging and his work is opening innovative avenues for alleviating this pernicious problem. I want to extend my gratitude to the Fraternal Order of Eagles for their continued generosity and their engagement in the work of the Diabetes Research Center. Philanthropic support represents an important cornerstone of our ability as a Department and Medical School to innovate, recruit, and support our faculty. Endowed chairs send a powerful message within and outside the institution of the University of Iowa’s commitment to growth and excellence in our research missions. Many gifts begin with simple conversations about the wonderful things that happen here at Iowa in the clinic and in our labs. The Department and our colleagues at the UI Foundation remain available to provide tools and support, to enable us to become vocal and creative advocates for the importance of our work to those who may want to help us realize our goals.
Multiple sources support our research mission, often on a competitive basis. The Department is committed to increasing the dissemination of information and to establish tools to increase our competitiveness. The University of Iowa’s Division of Sponsored Programs has links to the useful Grant Bulletin as well as many other regularly updated alerts. The Carver College of Medicine also provides a helpful list of resources to guide and assist researchers in the pursuit and maintenance of funding. Our Department has a number of resources in place as well, and we greatly appreciate the daily and quiet work behind the scenes by our research administrative team under the leadership of Lori Bassler in helping to manage our Departmental grants portfolio. We welcome your feedback as we enhance our support of the research mission and as we roll out additional programs and resources to increase our competitiveness in the coming months.
Despite the challenges of a competitive environment we continue to excel. Listed below are just some of the awards recently obtained by members of the Department:
- Dr. Songhai Chen will begin a three-year, $1,143,751 study of breast cancer therapeutics targeting tumor-initiating cells. This study is supported by the US Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award.
- Dr. Yousef Zakharia has begun a clinical trial sponsored by MedImmume, a Phase 1 study of MEDI4736 in combination with Tremelimumab in bladder cancer patients with advanced solid tumors.
- Dr. Zakharia, in collaboration with Dr. Mo Milhem, will conduct a clinical trial sponsored by Pfizer. This three-year, $541,811 Phase 1B/2 open-label study will evaluate safety, clinical activity, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of Avelumab in combination with other immunotherapies in patients with advanced malignancies.
- Dr. David Stoltz and Dr. Mahmoud Abou Alaiwa received a $300,000, two-year grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics, Inc. to measure mucociliary transport in patients with cystic fibrosis, developing potential interventions for clinical trial.
- Dr. George Weiner has received a three-year, $600,000 Translational Research Program award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to develop immunostimulatory nanoparticles that can be injected directly into lymphoma nodes with the goal of altering the tumor microenvironment and enhancing the anti-lymphoma immune response.
- Dr. Varun Monga has begun a three-year, $534,690, randomized, open-label study sponsored by Orbus Therapetuics to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Eflornithine with Lomustine compared to Lomustine alone in patients with anaplastic astrocytoma that progress or recur after irradiation and adjuvant Temozolomide chemotherapy STELLAR study.
- The 2017 Carver Trust Collaborative Pilot Grants have also been very recently awarded, four of which will go to Internal Medicine investigators: Dr. James McNamara, Dr. Rajan Sah, Dr. Mary Vaughan Sarrazin, and Dr. Jeff Meier.
Please join me in congratulating all of our colleagues on their successes and let us continue to work together as a team to propel others to similar success. I look forward to sharing more success stories in future posts.