Special to UM News
The Florida Department of Health announced Feb. 1 the award of 12 grants totaling $13,170,784 from the 2016-17 Zika Research Grant Initiative to investigators at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami Health System. The grants are more than half of the $25 million state fund supporting a total of 34 Zika research projects at UM and nine other institutions.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said, “I am proud to announce the recipients of these important research grants today. While we are currently in winter months when Zika is not as prevalent, we must remain vigilant and continue to do everything we can to help protect pregnant women and their developing babies. I look forward to seeing the innovation and progress of Florida’s world-class research institutions as we continue to work together in the fight against Zika and to find a vaccine.”
State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said, “I am grateful for Governor Scott’s leadership that enables us to provide researchers in Florida funds to expand the body of knowledge related to Zika, particularly in the areas of prevention and effects on infants and children.”
“Despite the time pressures related to the Zika Research Grant Initiative, investigators from the Miller School of Medicine and across the state responded with projects that have the potential to quickly advance both science and benefit to patients,” said Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., Director of the Mailman Center for Child Development and Chair of the Florida Biomedical Research Advisory Council. “It is clear that the Miller School, UHealth and other Florida investigators are leading in innovation and impact, and increased funding support is needed to bring the best of science to patients who will benefit.”
Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., interim Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, credits the leadership of Dushayantha Jayaweera, M.D., Executive Dean for Research, in encouraging faculty to submit proposals for research funding. “It’s a reflection of the high quality of our faculty that we had so many successful applications,” Gardner said.
The Zika Research Grant Initiative focused on vaccine development, innovative diagnostic testing or therapeutics, and health effects of Zika, and included discovery science, clinical studies, screening and prevention, and dynamic change team science studies. UM investigators were funded for work in all of these areas, and include:
• Sylvia Daunert, Pharm.D., M.S., Ph.D., Excma.Dra., Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: “Antibody-based Zika diagnostics,” $1,141,585
• Natasa Strbo, M.D., D.Sc., research assistant professor of microbiology and immunology: “Development and testing of novel secreted GP96-Ig Zika virus (ZIKV) vaccine,” $981,901
• Emmalee S. Bandstra, M.D., professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology: “Health effects of Zika virus,” $1,989,654
• Sapna Deo, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology: “Rapid RNA test for Zika virus,” $199,280
• Gaurav Saigal, M.D., professor of clinical radiology: “Characterization of Zika-positive and exposed children using enhanced MRI techniques and correlations with neurodevelopmental outcomes,” $1,141,457
• Ramzi Younis, M.D., professor of otolaryngology: “Early diagnosis and rehabilitation for craniofacial disorders in congenital Zika syndrome,” $1,140,125
• Glen N. Barber, Ph.D., professor and chair of cell biology: “Evaluation of novel vaccines that prevent Zika infection,” $1,141,582
• Claudia A. Martinez, M.D., associate professor of medicine: “Cardiovascular complications related to Zika virus infection,” $963,109
• Ivan Gonzalez, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics: “Evaluation of infants for Zika related end organ damage: A team science approach,” $1,989,654
• Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases: “Identification of the duration of ZIKVpersistence to guide reproductive health decisions,” $1,141,582
• Shanta Dhar, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology: “Nano-formulations of anti-helminthic drugs for Zika therapy and prevention,” $1,141,582
• Mark E. Sharkey, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine: “Development of a rapid diagnostic assay for Zika virus infection,” $199,273
The grant programs are administered by the Florida Department of Health and implemented by the Biomedical Research Advisory Council. All of the grants were externally and independently peer reviewed by scientific experts.