For Release: November 30, 2017
KANSAS CITY, MO. – Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI) and the Hall Family Foundation have partnered to award the 2017 Nexus of Human and Animal Health Research Grants. Five projects by local researchers were selected to each receive $50,000 to further the Path to 2025 regional vision: “Kansas City is a global leader at the nexus of human and animal health benefiting all our citizens and the economy.”
“The Hall Family Foundation has generously funded many innovative programs that support research and education in the greater Kansas City region,” said Dr. Wayne Carter, President and CEO of KCALSI. “We are very grateful the Foundation is supporting these valuable research grants. Our region has significant strength in human and animal medicine, and there are many opportunities to advance research by looking at the nexus or intersection of diseases affecting both people and animals.”
Below are this year’s grant recipients and a brief description of their research projects.
Developing a Database to Share Human and Animal Health Research Data Across Platforms
Kansas State University (K-State) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) have partnered to develop 1Data, a platform for mining shared data that can accelerate drug development for people and animals. Working together across species and organizations to improve human and animal health will help enhance research and ultimately improve the lives of all species. Drs. Majid Jaberi-Douraki and Jim Riviere of K-State and Dr. Gerald Wyckoff of UMKC have used regional strengths to develop this platform. They will continue expanding the 1Data database, testing the framework against a set of pre-determined metrics, and deploying a product that will be a key regional and global asset to advance translational research.
The 1Data platform can be used by researchers, industry, health providers, and community organizations to impact the drugs and technology available to help save lives and improve the quality of life for humans and animals. This platform also can enhance the regulatory approval process, decrease the use of animal models in silico virtual animal populations, and serve many other uses to advance research and technology.
Drug Screening for Pathogens That Infect the Red Blood Cells of Their Animal Host
Several socially and economically devastating diseases are caused by pathogens that infect red blood cells, the most recognizable of which is malaria. Such diseases affect both animals and people. Dr. Kathryn Reif at Kansas State University (K-State) will develop and validate a test to screen large clinical drug compound libraries for novel therapeutics to control the pathogens that infect the red blood cells of cattle. The long-term goal for this research is to prevent and reduce disease, which is essential to maintaining healthy livestock populations.
Dr. Reif’s research is tailored to cattle, but the pathogen drug screening test easily can be adapted to identify novel therapeutics for other red blood cell-infecting pathogens of human, veterinary, and agricultural importance. The project represents a collaboration between Dr. Reif’s laboratory at K-State, Dr. Johann Coetzee at K-State, and Dr. Anuradha Roy’s research team at the University of Kansas (KU).
Development of a Combination Vaccine Targeting Three Major Pathogens in the Intestines
Diseases in the intestines are a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. These diseases often are caused by bacteria entering the body through the mouth and can lead to malnutrition and delayed development in children. The leading causes of these diseases in the intestine are the bacteria Shigella, Salmonella and E. coli. Salmonella is also the leading cause of foodborne illness and of hospitalization and death due to foodborne illness worldwide.
Dr. Wendy Picking at KU in collaboration with Dr. Weiping Zhang at K-State will create a vaccine that will meld three vaccine technologies to develop a multi-agent combined vaccine to protect against Shigella, E. Coli, and Salmonella.
3-D Printed Cartilage Grafts to Delay Need for Joint Replacements
Osteoarthritis affects more than 30 million people in the United States, making it one of the leading causes of disability. A major obstacle in the treatment of osteoarthritis is that available therapies only manage symptoms and do not satisfactorily repair damaged cartilage or prevent its degradation.
Dr. Nathan Skelley at the University of Missouri (MU) Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will use a stereolithography (SLA) technique of 3-D printing using a hydrogel material to replicate joint cartilage. Dr. Skelley will create implantable cartilage that is formed from a liquid resin bath which results in greater resolution, faster printing times, and the ability to include tissue preserving or regenerating growth factors to be incorporated in the final construct. This patient specific cartilage therapy could improve healing and delay the need for joint replacements by preserving surrounding cartilage. This would have a great impact on orthopaedics and decrease symptoms associated with arthritis. The MU research team is highly multi-disciplinary, with investigators in engineering, veterinary medicine, and orthopedics.
Expanding the Pool of Fungal Compounds Leading to New Therapeutics in Animal and Human Health
Fungi produce bioactive compounds with harmful or beneficial effects on human and animal health. A barrier in identifying how to prevent production of harmful compounds or identifying novel beneficial metabolites is an understanding of how the biosynthesis of these compounds is regulated. Activating production of these secondary metabolites at will would open up a vast storehouse of fungal compounds of great potential value in human and veterinary medicine.
Dr. Richard Todd from K-State will investigate the links between primary metabolism, which produces metabolic precursors, and the regulation of secondary metabolism. His project will use a member of the fungal family Aspergillus, which are known to synthesize huge numbers of bioactive compounds. Large gene clusters orchestrate the production of these compounds. The key features of the proposal are to determine the role of nitrogen sources and primary metabolism regulators in secondary metabolite gene expression and to understand how the regulatory factors TamA and McrA work together to govern gene expression. The project is a collaborative effort between the Todd laboratory at K-State and Dr. Berl Oakley at KU.
Information about the Nexus Grants, including eligibility, review criteria and application procedures, can be found on KCALSI’s website.
About Hall Family Foundation:
The Hall Family Foundation is a private philanthropic organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of human life. Programs that enrich the community, help people and promote excellence are considered to be of prime importance. The Foundation views its primary function as that of a catalyst. It seeks to be responsive to programs that are innovative, yet strive to create permanent solutions to community needs in the Greater Kansas City area.
About Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute:
Through its Research Development Grants program, KCALSI manages a variety of individual grants for area corporations and trusts, helping them identify proposals with the best scientific, medical and technical merit. Research grants are awarded to generate initial results and stimulate the submission of major multidisciplinary research proposals to government or private agencies. KCALSI’s Research Development Grants program includes proposal review, evaluation by subject matter experts, written reviews for all applicants, and post-award management. The research grant program has historically provided over a 9:1 return on investment, so for every dollar invested in a grant, over $9 is returned from federal funding sources to the investigator, the institution and the community.
KCALSI – Vice President
Dr. Keith Gary
KCALSI – Communications and Events Manager