University of Delaware Provost Domenico Grasso welcomes participants to the fifth Northeast Regional Institutional Development Award Program Meeting.

Building biomedical capacity

Participants from five states attend IDeA meeting at UD

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4:20 p.m., Aug. 19, 2013--The fifth Northeast Regional Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program Meeting drew some 300 attendees to the University of Delaware campus from Aug. 14–16.  Participants represented all five IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) programs and 17 Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) programs in Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Funded and administered by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the IDeA program is aimed at broadening the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research.

Research Stories

Elusive leptin

A group of researchers from the University of Delaware and the Agricultural Research Organization in Israel has discovered and characterized the first genuine avian leptin gene.

Science fest

University of Delaware students will give visitors the opportunity to manipulate several different robots developed in UD research at the USA Science and Engineering Festival this weekend in Washington, D.C.

“Bio-sector resilience and growth are priorities not just for us here in this room, but also for the state and region,” said Domenico Grasso, who delivered his first official remarks as UD provost at the event. 

Grasso concluded his talk by thanking Fred Taylor, program director of the NIGMS Capacity Building Branch, and his team for their role in supporting and growing the program.  

“Dr. Taylor’s long-term support has allowed Delaware and all of the participating IDeA states to develop and strengthen statewide and regional networks for biomedical research capabilities that are able to produce nationally recognized research, educate a highly educated workforce and positively impact the health of our citizens,” Grasso said.

Taylor noted the strong support for the program expressed by Sen. Tom Carper, who met with the group, asked questions, and provided valuable input.

“It was also very satisfying to see such a large number of students and young investigators here, presenting their work in so many fields of science,” said Taylor, referring to the 160 posters displayed at the event.  “We’re obviously touching them, and that’s what this program is all about.”

Keynote 1: Scott Waldman, TJU

Scott Waldman, chair of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at Thomas Jefferson University, delivered Thursday’s keynote talk, “Translational Medicine: From Knowledge Generation to Healthcare Delivery.”

Waldman alluded to the current “biological revolution,” which he said has been enabled by technology developments over the past 10 to 20 years.

He then shared three vignettes from his own research on colorectal cancer as examples of the path from discovery to translation to application. Breakthroughs in his lab have the potential to change the treatment and management of patients at various stages of this disease, which is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death both in the U.S. and across the world.

The work in Waldman’s lab focuses on guanylyl cyclase C (GCC), a protein expressed exclusively in intestinal epithelial cells.  

He and his team are investigating the use of GCC in preventing colorectal cancer.  “If colorectal cancer is a disease of hormone deficiency,” Waldman said, “then we should be able to treat it the same way we treat other endocrine diseases like diabetes and thyroid disease — with replacement therapy.” 

The team is also exploring the use of GCC as a marker to detect occult metastases — which can be missed with traditional pathology techniques — and as a vaccine to prevent recurrence of the disease. 

Waldman, who has been working in this area since 1994, acknowledged that the path from discovery to application is a long one.  “It takes a lifetime career to move from an idea to clinical practice,” he said. 

Keynote 2:  Alison Hall, NIH-NIGMS

Friday’s keynote, “Building the Biomedical Workforce: IDeA and TWD,” was delivered by Alison Hall, deputy director of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity (TWD) at NIGMS. 

According to Hall, TWD programs are aimed at building diversity and building preparation, with specific programs aimed at enhancing the various career stages from community college through the postdoctoral level.

“TWD embraces IDeA, as we have common interests in workforce development, capacity building and training to independence,” she said.

Hall outlined a number of opportunities to help young investigators build their careers, including a number of programs found at the “K Kiosk,” which presents information about NIH Career Development Awards.  She also pointed to NIH programs designed to increase the research competitiveness of faculty and to strengthen the research environment of institutions.

“As trainers we need to be cognizant of the needs associated with various career paths,” Hall said. “We need to provide a broadening experience in scientific training, including more exposure to non-academic research careers.”

She also emphasized the importance of increasing funding for fellowships, which NIH is planning to do in 2015, to support trainees’ independent aims.

Poster Winners

1st Place (tie):

--Sabrina Elgar and Sarah Bilida (Rhode Island), “Defining a Role for Bcp1 in the DNA Damage Response”

--Ryan O'Boyle (Delaware), “Effect of Cell Culture Substratum Anisotropy on Human Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Phenotype”

2nd Place: 

--Caleigh MacDonald (New Hampshire), “Pediatric Pressure Ulcers: Improving Skin Care in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit”

3rd Place: 

--Rebekah Dumm (Delaware), “Photocross-linkable Resilin Based Hydrogels for Mechanically Demanding Tissue Engineering Applications”

About the Meeting

The 2013 IDeA meeting was hosted by the Delaware INBRE and COBRE programs at the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children.

The 2015 IDeA meeting will be held in Maine.

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Doug Baker

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