Our Engine of Innovation and Discovery

We regularly share news of work that is supported by basic or translational research grants, but there is a significant portion of breakthrough work being done in our department through clinical trials. The time-consuming process of patient enrollment, follow-up, safety and regulatory compliance that accompanies the evaluation of any new drug or treatment bridges basic discoveries in the lab and eventual widespread use that benefits many patients. In fact, in this fiscal year, more than a quarter of all non-federal dollars and more than 9 percent of federal research in the department support clinical trials. This represents a total of more than $6M, just in FY18. There is not space enough to list all of our clinician-investigators who have proven their ability to develop the relationships and establish their reputation in order to bring this work to the Carver College of Medicine and to our department. Instead, here is just a very brief sampling of the recently announced trials set to begin soon.

  • clinical-trial-iconBenjamin Davis, MD, PhD – Division of Immunology
    A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, parallel group, placebo-controlled, phase IIIb study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of benralizumab 30 mg sc in patients with severe asthma uncontrolled on standard of care treatment (ANDHI), via Astra Zeneca
  • Mony Fraer, MD – Division of Nephrology and Hypertension
    A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase III study of the safety and efficacy of OMS721 in patients with immunoglobulin A (IgA) nephropathy (ARTEMIS-IGAN) via Omeros Corporation
  • Mohammed Milhem, MBBS – Division of Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation
    A phase I, open-label, multicenter study investigating the tolerability and efficacy of UV1 vaccine in first-line malignant melanoma patients planned for treatment with pembrolizumab via Ultimovacs AS
  • Sneha Phadke, DO – Division of Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation
    BYLieve: A phase II, multicenter, open-label, two-cohort, non-comparative study to assess the efficacy and safety of alpelisib plus fulvestrant or letrozole in patients with PIK3CA mutant, hormone receptor positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer via Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation
  • Huy Tran, MD, PhD – Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
    A phase III, double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of obeticholic acid in subjects with compensated cirrhosis due to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis via Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

All of you who engage in clinical trial activity have my thanks and my congratulations. Your tireless efforts support my conviction that the future of medicine often begins here at the University of Iowa.

The above sampling shows that extramural funding sources abound to reward our faculty’s creativity and commitment to solving intractable problems. Every winning proposal often starts with small steps, and it bears reminding that there are many institutional pilot and feasibility support mechanisms that can help you launch new projects or explore that question that has been nagging at you. Two of our colleagues have recently taken advantage of such opportunities. Dr. Spyridon Fortis, an Assistant Professor and pulmonologist at the Iowa City VA Medical Center, has received a pilot grant from the VA’s Office of Rural Health to examine unequal outcomes in COPD care between urban and rural medical centers. Answers to this question are critical as we look for new ways to improve the health of all Iowans, no matter where they live. And a relatively recent arrival to our department, Dr. Robert Blount, also a pulmonologist and Assistant Professor, will expand his work examining the connections between air pollution and tuberculosis with a pilot grant from the university’s Environmental Health Sciences Research Center. Dr. Blount’s work in global health linking particulate air pollution to pulmonary tuberculosis in Vietnam is of great public health significance. Both projects exemplify ways in which our faculty’s research activities impact our communities and the world. Congratulations to both of you.

ahalogo250Finally, another major source of funding besides the NIH is worthy of mention, given some recent news. In August of this year, I made mention of a number of recent grants from the American Heart Association that had come to the department. This included a Translational Project Award, four Innovative Project Awards, some pre- and postdoctoral fellowships, and a couple Career Development Awards. Dr. Barry London, Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, recently announced that the University of Iowa is ninth in the nation in terms of AHA research dollars, with more than $11.5M in total current funding. This puts us ahead of institutions like New York University, Yale, and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and not far behind Duke University and the University of Utah. Our research funding from the AHA has increased by more than $2M just in the last year, all of which is a testimony, as Dr. London says, to the hard work and dedication of many of our research faculty who are members of the department and of the Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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