Researcher using a microscope

Minnesota Partnership Awards Five Collaborative Research Grants for 2023

The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics announced today their 2023 research awardees. MNP is funded by the State of Minnesota and provides support for innovative research conducted by collaborative teams from the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.

Totaling $6.75 million, this year’s awards fund innovative projects on cancer, rare genetic diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive aging and new health models to study diseases.

The award-winning projects and awardees for 2023 are:

Minnesota Functional Omics Resource (MNFORce)
Eric Klee, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Mark Osborn, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Rare genetic disease is a significant health burden for patients, their families and communities. Only 5% of rare disease patients have access to a known therapeutic option to treat their condition. In this study, the clinical and basic biological expertise at Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota will unite to address diagnostic and therapeutic challenges using preclinical models. By creating these connections, we can provide important insight into the genetics of disease and ultimately have a positive impact on patient care in our state and the world.

Center for Functional Genomics of Immunotherapy (CFGI)
David Largaespada, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Saad Kenderian, M.B., Ch.B., Mayo Clinic

Cancer is the second leading cause of disease-associated death in the U.S. According to the National Cancer Institute, the economic burden of cancer is estimated to be $21 billion per year. The most used cancer treatments are associated with significant morbidity. Adoptive T-cell therapies, such as chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy, are tailored to specific cases, locations and types of cancer and have the potential to dramatically revolutionize cancer therapy. This project will contribute to the evolution of this young field by providing and testing new T-cell products that could be widely deployed and based on donor, genetically modified T cells that could be stored for later use.

The Healthy Aging in the Senior Years (HATS) Study: Cardiovascular Contributions to Brain Health and Dementia in Twin Cities Black Residents
Anne Murray, M.D., MSc, University of Minnesota; David Knopman, M.D., Mayo Clinic

The risk of dementia is twice as high in older Black people compared to White non-Hispanics. The high rates of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in the Black population may play a role. This project will establish a new large cohort of Black Twin Cities residents to conduct a study of risk factors for dementia in U.S.-born older Black persons, called the “Healthy Aging in the Senior Years (HATS) Study: Cardiovascular Contributions to Brain Health and Dementia in Twin Cities Black Residents.” HATS will be a long-term observational dementia study to assess thinking and memory, physical function and general health.

Organoid Biomanufacturing for Transforming Healthcare
Brenda Ogle, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Charles Howe, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic

Organoid models provide a human-centric approach to studying diseases and have the potential to speed up the discovery of treatments. In this study, researchers will create agile, reproducible, and physiologically relevant models (organoids) of human hearts, brains and intestines which can be used as essential tools for understanding diseases, testing new treatments and even replacing damaged cells in patients. The scalable production of organoids for “off-the-shelf” use has the potential to revolutionize how to treat serious conditions like heart damage, dementia, epilepsy and cancer.

Towards a Center for Advanced Synucleinopathy Diagnostics (ASCEND): Development and optimization of nanoparticle-enhanced seed amplification assays for blood-based detection of synucleinopathies
Wolfgang Singer, M.D., Mayo Clinic; Sang-Hyun Oh, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

In the U.S. alone, close to a million people live with Parkinson’s disease (PD), and globally, the number is estimated at over 10 million. Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a related, much rarer neurodegenerative disease that is rapidly progressive and universally fatal. These diseases take a toll on patients' lives and place a significant financial burden on health care systems yet can be difficult to diagnose, particularly at early disease stages. This project aims to develop accurate and cost-effective blood-based diagnostic tests for the early diagnosis of PD and MSA. This partnership has the potential to revolutionize the way we diagnose these diseases, potentially leading to better outcomes for patients, significant health care savings, and a brighter future for those at risk of MSA and PD.

About the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics (MNP)
MNP is a unique collaborative venture among the Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota, and State of Minnesota. MNP seeks to position Minnesota as a world leader in biotechnology and medical genomics applications that will result in important new medical discoveries, thereby improving health care for patients and supporting the development of new business and jobs in Minnesota.

This story was published by the University of Minnesota on Dec. 21, 2023.

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