July 09, 2012 — Coral Gables — Every year, nearly 600,000 Floridians suffer from tobacco-associated illnesses, and 100,000 are diagnosed with cancer. To help combat these health problems, Miller School researchers have been awarded $4 million in grants from the Florida Department of Health’s Biomedical Research Program, which supports research in cancer and tobacco-related diseases.
Competing against scientists across the state, 12 UM scientists won 41 percent – an all-time high — of the $9.74 million available for new investigator research and bridge grants through the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program.
“These grant programs are particularly crucial for new investigators,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School. “Their success in this competition proves that our rising generation of researchers has what it takes to compete for even larger grants and conduct research of great significance for patients. Considering the challenges with NIH funding, particularly for our young investigators, these state programs are a blessing.”
This year the James and Esther King program, which supports research for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and/or cure of tobacco-related diseases, received 55 applications, 11 of which were funded, including nine from the Miller School. The recipients were Brian E. Lally, assistant professor of radiation oncology, $400,000; Lina Shehadeh, assistant professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division and Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, $400,000; Jose Silva, research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and member of the Center for Therapeutic Innovation at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, $392,327; Hoshang Unwalla, research assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, $400,000; Gaofeng Wang, assistant professor of human genetics, $400,000; Sion Williams, assistant scientist in the Department of Neurology, $389,964; Dmitry Ivanov, research assistant professor of ophthalmology, $200,000; and H. Peter Larsson, associate professor of physiology and biophysics, $179,493.
The Bankhead-Coley program, which promotes initiatives aimed at reducing the state’s inordinately high cancer burden, funded 15 of the 78 applications received, including three proposals from the Miller School and one from the College of Arts and Sciences. Those recipients are Priyamvada Rai, assistant professor of medicine, $374,000; Tongyu Cao Wikramanayake, research assistant professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery, $374,000; James Wilson, assistant professor of chemistry, $374,000; and Enrique A. Mesri, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, director of the AIDS Malignancies Scientific Working Group at the Miller School’s Center for AIDS Research, and member of the Viral Oncology Research Program at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, $134,406.
“The funding provided by these very competitive grants will help propel our scientists to make new, impactful discoveries in the laboratory,” said Stephen D. Nimer, director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I congratulate our researchers for attaining these awards and applaud the Bankhead-Coley program for its foresight and dedication to prevent and fight cancer for all Floridians.”
In all, the programs received 133 proposals from 15 different universities and research institutes, and awarded the grants on a competitive basis through the assignment of merit scores determined by an independent, out-of-state peer review process. All awards were effective July 1.
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