Research Briefs: Grants, Awards and More from the College of Medicine Research Enterprise

June 18, 2010

Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., and Jeffrey D. Cirillo, Ph.D., were honored at the Texas A&M University System Office of Technology Commercialization Patent and Innovation 2010 Awards Luncheon on April 7, 2010.

Dr. Prockop received two patent awards, one for Enhanced Growth of Adult Stem Cells with Dkk-1 issued in February 2009, and the other for Directed In Vitro Differentiation of Marrow Stromal Cells into Neural Cell Progenitors issued in June 2009.

Dr. Cirillo received one of four Innovation Awards awarded throughout the entire Texas A&M System for “individuals whose research exemplifies the spirit of innovation”  for his development of an infectious disease diagnostic platform which may bring a low-cost, highly accurate assay to the global tuberculosis diagnostic market.

Chiou Receives $10M for Phase 2 AMD Research

Dr. George C.Y. Chiou, Director of the Institute for Ocular Pharmacology and 33-year veteran of the College of Medicine, and his team received $10 million for phase 2 research and development of medicinal eye drops for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration.  The grant from Healthcare of Today, Inc. was awarded in January. Dr. Chiou and his team will receive $2 million this year and the remaining $8 million through 2013.  The first phase of their research—investigating the safety of a prototype drug called MC1101—has been completed with positive results.

Ficht Receives Gates Foundation Grant for Innovative TB Vaccine Research

Dr. Allison Rice Ficht, Regent’s Professor of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of the Center for Microencapsulation and Drug Delivery, received $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s program called Grand Challenges Explorations in October 2009.  The grant will fund research concerning a new tuberculosis immunization delivery system based on the protein used by parasitic worms to seal their egg cases. This “sticky coating” for nanoparticle vaccines could protect antigens during administration as a nose spray, affix them to the nasal lining and erode in a controlled way to slowly release antigens for enhanced immune response against tuberculosis. Because of the unique and innovative nature of Dr. Ficht’s project, her grant was featured on the Gates Foundation website.

Expenditure Report from Research and Graduate Studies

The following information concerns the College of Medicine research enterprise and faculty successes in obtaining funding.  This information was presented at the last general faculty meeting on April 27, 2010, by Dr. Van G. Wilson, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies.

In Figure 1, total grant expenditures (direct + indirect costs) reached an all-time high of more than $17 million in FY09.

The successful trend in increasing dollars is also reflected in the steady increase in the number of funded grants to College of Medicine principal investigators (Figure 2), and the college now has nearly 100 funded projects.  A big part of this recent success was due to a dramatic increase (59%) in grant submissions last year (Figure 3), likely due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the availability of new funds from the National Institutes of Health.

While that bolus of funding is over, the numbers for FY10 so far remain excellent, and the hard work and persistence of the college and its researchers will maintain or even increase the research accomplishments this year.


— Dhwani Chauhan