Research scientist

Minnesota Partnership awards 5 collaborative research grants for 2021

Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics announced today their 2021 research awardees. This marks the partnership's 17th year of spearheading new scientific ideas from Minnesota to improve the health of, and health care for, Minnesotans. The state-funded grants for these team science proposals total nearly $5 million. Some of these proposals include: a long-lasting COVID-19 vaccine, new treatments for breast and other cancers, and gene-editing techniques to prevent birth defects. 

The awarded five teams will initiate the two-year projects aimed at improving the treatment of diseases that affect Minnesotans. Projects are selected based on the quality and rigor of the proposed research, importance of the medical need and potential of future commercialization. Each team includes investigators from Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. It’s required that the studies be collaborative, and that the projects could not be pursued by either institution alone.

The award-winning projects and awardees for 2021 are:

Developing vaccination regimens that generate multifunctional, long-lived, and re-activatable B and T cell immunity for SARS-CoV-2 
Michael Barry, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; David Masopust, Ph.D., University of Minnesota. 
At this point, it is uncertain how long personal immunity from new COVID-19 vaccines can be maintained. These researchers hope to build a COVID-19 vaccine that will have reliable, long-term immunity. Their goal is that their vaccine strategy will yield long-term immune memory that is broad and easy to reactivate when confronted with the virus. 

In utero gene editing for severe or fatal genetic disorders of metabolism
Joseph Lillegard, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Li Ou, Ph.D., University of Minnesota. 
Genetic disorders in newborns are the target of a project that will use clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and mouse models to develop a possible cure for three different disorders via gene editing in utero. The immediate goal is to assess safety and efficacy of their gene
editing approach. 

Tools to assess DNMT-DNA covalent complex formation 
Scott Kaufmann, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Daniel Harki, Ph.D., University of Minnesota.
Clonal myeloid neoplasms are abnormalities which result in the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with 45,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The goal of this project is to determine which patients with this cancer will respond to inhibitors. The researchers hope to develop a chemical assay that will lead to identifying antibodies that could be used to treat the disease. 

Development and clinical testing of next generation oncolytic viruses against spontaneous malignant melanomas in companion dogs 
Richard Vile, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Antonella Borgatti, D.V.M., DACVIM (Oncology), DECVIM-CA, University of Minnesota.
A Mayo Clinic immunologist and a cancer research veterinarian at the University of Minnesota hope to use a new oncolytic virus developed at Mayo to treat cancer that spontaneously develops in companion dogs. Mayo will help the University fight cancer in pets with the long-term goal of applying the same reengineered virus to treat similar  cancers in humans. 

Dual targeting of aurora-A and progesterone receptor (PR) driven signaling pathways to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of CDK4/6 inhibitors in endocrine resistant breast cancer 
Carol Lange, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Antonio D'Assoro, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic.
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in Minnesota, with an estimated 4,670 new cases diagnosed in 2020. Nationwide, there are at least 3.8 million breast cancer survivors. Recurrence of therapy-resistant cancer is a life-long threat to at least 40% of these women. This team aims to discover the mechanism of resistance to current therapies by studying changes in cell signaling and gene expression in laboratory samples, and then test new combination therapies that target that mechanism. The goal is to provide more effective treatment for women with endocrine resistant breast cancer.

The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is a collaboration among the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the state of Minnesota.

Story originally published on January 21, 2021 by the University of Minnesota.

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