Roundup of recent grants to medical school faculty

Michael Snyder

Michael Snyder

Stanford-Yale team awarded $12 million grant to study cell reprogramming

An interdisciplinary team of experts led by Stanford’s Michael Snyder, PhD, chair of genetics, and Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of radiology, has been awarded a $12 million grant to study the epigenomics of cell reprogramming.

The team, which includes researchers at Stanford and Yale universities, is trying to understand how to take a specialized cell, such as a skin cell, and turn it into an unspecialized cell that can be coaxed to form any cell type — much like reprogramming a computer.

Reprogramming cells causes them to revert to pluripotent stem cells. They behave like embryonic stem cells, which have the remarkable ability to develop into cell types ranging from heart muscle to nerves, and can divide and renew themselves for long periods of time. Learning more about these cells could improve our understanding of cancer and other conditions.

Joseph Wu

Joseph Wu

Right now, cell reprogramming is an inefficient process, said Snyder, who also directs the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine. Only about one in 10,000 cells can be made to become unspecialized. Snyder said that once team members understand the pathways that control reprogramming, they will manipulate those pathways to reprogram cells more quickly and efficiently.

“It’s an incredibly important problem with a high impact, and we’re bringing together a team of leading experts,” said Snyder.

The assembled team weaves together specialists in genomics, informatics and stem cell biology to tackle the problem of improving the efficiency of cell reprogramming. In addition to Snyder and Wu, the Stanford team includes Joanna Wysocka, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and systems biology and of developmental biology; Anne Brunet, PhD, associate professor of genetics; and Daphne Koller, PhD, professor of computer science in the Stanford AI lab. The Yale members are Sherman Weissman, MD, of the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, and In-Hyun Park, PhD, of the Yale Stem Cell Center.

The grant was awarded Sept. 12 by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Yeast genome database project to continue with five-year grant of $12 million from NHGRI

Mike Cherry

Mike Cherry

Mike Cherry, associate professor of genetics, and his group was awarded $2.4 million a year for the next five years from the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, to continue to create and maintain the Saccharomyces Genome Database, which is available at www.yeastgenome.org.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a budding yeast, is a model organism that is used to explore eukaryotic genetics, molecular biology and cellular biology.

Cherry’s project collects published results about the yeast and integrates this information into a web-accessible database to facilitate basic research by scientist around the world. The project also provides tools to aid in scientific discovery and evaluation of experimental results.

SGD is one a small number of model organism databases, and it has been continually funded at Stanford since 1992.

Spectrum Child Health provides funding to six researchers at Packard Children’s Hospital

The Innovations in Patient Care program has awarded grants to six caregivers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Administered annually by Spectrum Child Health, the program supports innovative research focused on improved patient quality-of-care at Packard Children’s.

The IPC, which is sponsored by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, awards up to $25,000 and is open to all caregivers and clinicians at Packard Children’s.
The six awardees and their research projects are listed as follows:

  • Natali Aziz, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology: Oral probiotic supplementation and Group B Streptococcus rectovaginal colonization in pregnant women; a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
  • Brandy Begin, RN: Utilization of a recreational therapist to improve quality of life for pediatric hemodialysis patients.
  • Susan Crowe, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology: Effective pedometer use to prevent excessive pregnancy weight gain in overweight/obese women.
  • Kathleen Gutierrez, MD, associate professor of pediatrics: Effect of pre-operative prophylaxis with vancomycin on rate of cefazolin non-susceptible gram positive surgical site infections in cardiovascular surgery patients.
  • Christina Miyake, MD, instructor in pediatrics: Can we reduce radiation exposure in pediatric patients undergoing placement of pacemakers or internal cardiac defibrillators?
  • Scott Sutherland, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology: Use of a novel bioinformatics platform to determine the association between administration of hypotonic intravenous fluids and the development of hospital-acquired hyponatremia.

Three $25,000 seed grants to projects in population science

Three research teams have received a total of $75,000 through the Spectrum seed grant program.

The Stanford Prevention Research Center and Spectrum (the Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Education and Research) are directing these pilot funds towards the advancement of population science — a broad-based approach to understanding the interrelated factors that influence the health of communities and the nation.

Population science brings disease specialists together with experts in epidemiology, statistics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, prevention and health policy to gather objective evidence for best clinical practices and improved outcomes.

“We’re excited about the potential of these projects to foster interdisciplinary and innovative approaches on major research questions that do matter for improving population health,” said the prevention research center’s director, John Ioannidis, MD, DSc. “Answering such questions can change the big picture of health and medicine.”

The three projects and lead investigators, which each were awarded a one-year grant of $25,000, are:

  • Tina Hernandez-Boussard, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of surgery. Purpose: To define predictors of quality health-care delivery for patients in the ambulatory surgical setting, focusing on the four most frequent ambulatory procedures — cataract surgery, hernia repair, endoscopies/colonoscopies and distal radius fractures.
  • Atul Butte, MD, PhD, associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics, and Chirag Patel, PhD, postdoctoral research scholar in biomedical informatics. Purpose: To develop methods to systematically screen for gene-environment interactions on serum lipid levels using general population health survey data.
  • Julie Parsonnet, MD, professor of infectious diseases. Purpose: To determine if long-term antibiotic use promotes weight gain in children and adolescents by analyzing an electronic medical record database from a primary care setting.

All three of these projects are made possible through funds from a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.


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