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10 Department of Medicine Faculty Members to Receive CU Transformational Research Funding

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Top row: Jean Kutner, MD, MPH; Michael Ho, MD; Lisa Schilling, MD, MSPH; Sean Colgan, PhD; Hugo Rosen, MD. Bottom row: Andrew Fontenot, MD; Eric Poeschla, MD; Craig Jordan, PhD; Timothy McKinsey, PhD; Mary Weiser-Evans, PhD.

In late January 2016, CU School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, announced five proposals that will receive funding under the School’s Transformational Research Funding awards. Faculty members in the Department of Medicine will participate in all five of these proposals, with a total of 10 DOM faculty members helping to lead projects.

“Our faculty will play important roles in these Transformational RFAs because they are extremely creative and collaborative, and committed to developing novel approaches with the potential to make a real impact on the lives of patients,” said David A. Schwartz, MD, Robert W. Schrier Chair of Medicine.

The first project selected will build infrastructure, develop methods and establish implementation pathways to prepare for population health. Patient-Integrated Value and Organizational Transformation and Data Sciences for Health (PIVOT/DASH) will be led by Department of Medicine faculty members Jean Kutner, MD, MPH (GIM), Michael Ho, MD (Cardiology), and Lisa Schilling, MD, MSPH (GIM) as well as by Michael Kahn, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics.

The GI and Liver Innate Immune Center, another selected project, will aim to diagnose, treat and understand gastrointestinal and liver disease in children and adults. Leaders for this center include Department of Medicine faculty members Sean Colgan, PhD and Hugo Rosen, MD (both of Gastroenterology & Hepatology), as well as Ron Sokol, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics.

Next, the Center for Human Immune Innovation will build on existing strengths in immunology to capture the next wave of development in the field, treating and, in many cases curing, diseases by interventions that target immunological functions. This center will be led by Andrew Fontenot, MD (Allergy & Clinical Immunology), along with John Cambier, PhD, of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology, and Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, of the Departments of Surgery and Pharmacology.

The RNA Bioscience Center will focus on developments in understanding of RNA biology, including its biogenesis and structure, the identification of functions for various classes of RNAs, establishing the role of RNA in disease and exploring RNA-based and RNA-targeted therapies. The team leaders for this project include Eric Poeschla, MD (Infectious Diseases) and Craig Jordan, PhD (Hematology), as well as David Bentley, PhD, Richard Davis, PhD, and Jay Hesselberth, PhD, all of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and Linda van Dyk, PhD, of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

Finally, the Center for Fibrosis Research and Translation will impact human health through discoveries of fundamental mechanisms of fibrosis, using this knowledge as a platform for developing transformative therapies to treat fibrotic disease, covering multiple organs. The center will also address organ regeneration, inflammation and epigenetics. This center will be led by Timothy McKinsey, PhD (Cardiology) and Mary Weiser-Evans, PhD (Renal Diseases and Hypertension).

The School of Medicine will support these proposals, providing $10-20M each over five years. Funding for this program comes from clinical faculty earnings, annual financial support from University of Colorado Health and philanthropy, including a commitment of $15M by the Anschutz Foundation. No state-appropriated funding or student tuition/fees are being used for the Transformational Research Funding awards.

The competitive application process for these awards was first announced in fall 2015, inviting CU School of Medicine faculty to apply for funding for proposals that would position the School as a leader in cutting-edge and emerging fields, attract extramural funding, help recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance education and training, and positively impact human lives and society in Colorado, the nation and the world. The winning proposals were selected by an external review committee.

“We wanted to try to fund the most highly rated programs from our study section and do a variety of other goals, including cross-disciplinary collaboration, involvement of partners from other institutions, include a variety of topics where we can have high impact, a spectrum of age of the patients affected by this type of research,” said Reilly. ​