Two minds together

Minnesota Partnership Awards Five Collaborative Research Grants for 2022

January 13, 2022

The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics announced today their 2022 research awardees. This marks the partnership's 18th 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. This year the awards fund innovative projects on heart and liver disease, mapping diseases of the brain, congenital genetic disease, and pancreatic cancer.

These two-year projects focus on improving 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. The teams are comprised of researchers from Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. It’s required that the studies be collaborative, and that the projects could not be pursued solely by either institution.

The award-winning projects and awardees for 2022 are:

Manipulating Natural Killer Cell Signaling to Enhance Immunotherapy
Daniel Billadeau, PhD, Mayo Clinic; Frank Cichocki, PhD, University of Minnesota
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is one of the most fatal forms of pancreatic cancer and the fourth deadliest cancer worldwide. The 5-year survival rate is less than ten percent. In this project researchers will try to enhance the immune system’s natural killer cells to attack the cancer, as there is currently no effective long-term treatment. The goal is to mass produce the cells using induced pluripotent stem cells, so there will be no shortage for therapies. Both Mayo and the University have significant killer cell research programs which complement each other in this joining of forces.  

Novel Implementation of Spatiotemporal Mapping and Electroporation for the Treatment of Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
Christopher DeSimone, MD, PhD, Mayo Clinic; Alena Talkachova, PhD, University of Minnesota
Atrial fibrillation is a rapid heartbeat that can cause discomfort, fatigue and shortness of breath. When it persists it can be debilitating. Currently treated with drugs and heat-based ablation, the therapies don’t work well for everyone. This team is trying to join their technology and software developments to create a way to map and target the right areas of an individual’s heart to aim either reversable ablation (stunning tissue) or permanent ablation, to effectively treat this condition.

Unexplored Pathways: The Impact of Abnormal Glycosylation on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and -Gonadal Axes and Bone Health in Patients with Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation
Eva Morava-Kozicz, MD, PhD Mayo Clinic; Kyriakie Sarafoglou, MD, University of Minnesota
Disorders of glycosylation are genetic conditions that result in a range of developmental problems from early childhood and others as one reaches adult years. The mutations prevent proper function of the sugar-based building blocks in cells and can cause poor growth, poor muscle development, seizures, liver and heart disease and abnormal bleeding. This group wants to focus on understanding how this condition impacts the endocrine system, specifically four noted hormones that control types of growth and development.

An Intraoperative Stylet-Based Electrode Array for Mapping Subcortical Brain Regions
Matthew Johnson, PhD, University of Minnesota; Kai Miller, MD, PhD, Mayo Clinic
This group will be teaming up to develop a new, more accurate technology for recording brain activity at the subcortical level. A more sensitive and practical system will be helpful in studying all types of brain conditions from essential tremor to epilepsy. This technology will be the first of its type and, initially, unique to Minnesota.

Lead Optimization of a Novel Epigenetic Inhibitor Series for Alcoholic Hepatitis Therapy
William Pomerantz, PhD, University of Minnesota; Vijay Shah, MD, Mayo Clinic
Alcoholic hepatitis is a severe liver disease that can occur even in moderate drinkers. It’s a leading cause of illness and death across the U.S. Over the past three years this team has developed two types of small molecule inhibitors that help stop inflammation and other aspects of alcoholic hepatitis. This award will enable them to continue preclinical studies development to bring this potential therapy closer to translation. Ultimately, this team hopes to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients with this debilitating condition.  

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

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