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U.Va. Health System Grants Seek To Fund Medicine of Tomorrow


The University of Virginia Health System has selected five ambitious proposals that could create transformative advances in medicine as the inaugural recipients of its new clinical research grants.

Funded by the U.Va. Medical Center, the grants program aims to nourish innovative ideas at U.Va. that will shape the health care of the future.

The projects selected for the first round of grants, totaling almost $2.4 million over three years, are:

  • An evaluation of mild traumatic brain injury in student-athletes, determining the correlation between head impacts and physiological changes in the brain. Principal investigator: Dr. Jason Druzgal.
  • An investigation of focused ultrasound technology to manage/control the motor symptoms other than tremor in Parkinson’s disease. Principal investigator: Dr. Jeffrey Elias.
  • An effort to detect mutations in children’s cancers that could lead to novel, personalized treatments. Principal investigator: Ira Hall.
  • A study using MRI to determine the prevalence of microvascular (small vessel) disease, a heart condition that may cause angina in patients with normal coronary arteries (larger vessels). Principal investigator: Dr. Chris Kramer.
  •  Rapid advancement to human testing of novel genetic and cellular factors discovered to regulate artery plaque buildup, potentially leading to a blood test for early coronary artery disease – and possibly suggesting new treatment strategies. Principal investigators: Dr. Coleen McNamara and Dr. Angela Taylor.

The Health System’s grants program drew 95 submissions from U.Va. researchers. Twenty applicants were then asked to submit in-depth proposals.

Dr. Ron Turner, associate dean for clinical research, said he was impressed by the breadth and depth of the proposals received. “It’s really gratifying to see what our faculty is doing and thinking,” he said, noting that the high quality of the submissions made it extremely difficult to winnow the field to five.

 “These are novel projects that demonstrate the cutting-edge nature of what we are doing here,” Turner said of the grant recipients. “These are all things where you can say, ‘I can really see how this will make a difference for our patients.’”

The selection committee was made up of representatives of the various arms of the Health System, including the Medical Center, the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing.

The Health System has solicited a second round of grant proposals this spring as part of its ongoing search for new discoveries and breakthroughs.

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