The National Institutes of Health has awarded OMRF three new research grants totaling nearly $2.7 million.
The grants cover a range of research areas: immune cell production, eye disease therapies, and blood vessel leakage protection during inflammation.
The awards are a testament to the quality of biomedical research being done in the state of Oklahoma, as well as the importance of funding, said OMRF Vice President of Research Paul Kincade, Ph.D.
“We are competing for these grants with prestigious institutions around the U.S., so it is a significant achievement to successfully bring in this funding from the NIH,” he said.
Lijun Xia, M.D., Ph.D., and Rodger McEver, M.D., received a 4-year, $1.7 million grant to study blood vessel leakage and impaired vascular integrity during inflammation. The grant, number 1 R01 HL128390-01A1, was awarded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
This grant will utilize Xia’s expertise in sugar proteins to understand how they protect vessels from leakage or bleeding in severe cases like sepsis, a deadly blood infection. McEver, an expert in inflammation, will study how circulating white blood cells attach to blood vessel surfaces at sites of injury or infection.
“We could potentially find a way to control blood vessel leakage and prevent bleeding,” said Xia, who holds the Merrick Foundation Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF. “In a severe case like sepsis, this function is lost and vessels and leak or you see even more severe bleeding. Patients can die from low blood pressure, shock or internal bleeding.”
Jose Alberola-Ila, M.D., Ph.D., received a two-year, $471,625 grant to study the mechanisms that regulate the production of a specific type of white blood cell that plays a role in the immune response.
“These cells are the body’s first line of defense against infections, and the way they respond influences how the whole immune response goes,” said Alberola-Ila. “It’s important that we learn exactly how they work so we can manipulate them to improve health outcomes and develop vaccination strategies.”
Alberola-Ila’s project, under grant number 1 R21 AI122693-01A1, was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Scott Plafker, Ph.D., R.Ph., also earned a two-year, $471,625 grant to develop treatment strategies for autoimmune demyelinating optic neuritis, a condition that causes vision loss.
“Over time, these recurring attacks can cause permanent vision loss,” said Plafker. “The goal of this grant is to test new ways for preventing and treating this optic neuritis. We will test much-needed therapeutic strategies focused on eliminating damage to the optic nerve.”
Plafker will work in collaboration with OMRF’s Robert Axtell, Ph.D., and Rheal Towner, Ph.D., and with Assem Ziady, Ph.D., of The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The grant, number 1 R21 EY026684-01, was funded by the National Eye Institute.
“We’re proud of our scientists for securing these awards and excited about the direction their research is heading,” said Kincade.