X-Grant Program

X-Grant projects advance to next step

Health Science Center faculty among those chosen to move to the next step in competition
February 28, 2019

The X-Grants, an interdisciplinary research program that is part of the Texas A&M President’s Excellence Fund, has chosen nine projects led by Health Science Center faculty to move forward to the next step and submit proposals for review, which are due in late March.

The program’s goal is to unlock creative and imaginative ideas that will address important problems in areas that will significantly impact the most important challenges facing global society. This mix of smaller awards and larger-scale collaborative research awards will share $7 million among Texas A&M researchers.

Of the nine projects, two had entered last year but didn’t make it to the final step of the competition. To help make their entries more competitive for this year, they received funding from the Health Science Center senior vice president and Office of Faculty Development to work on the research in the interim.

The first, Drugs from bugs: Defeating human, animal and plant diseases with pathogen-derived “effector” proteins, is led by Paul de Figueiredo, PhD, associate professor at the College of Medicine. They will study how effector proteins affect human, animal and plant diseases. These proteins come from parasites, bacteria and fungi that cause diseases of global significance. Members of the team include Koichi Kobayashi, PhD, research professor, College of Medicine; Kristin Patrick, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; Allison Rice-Ficht, PhD, senior associate vice president for research; James Samuel, PhD, head of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, College of Medicine; and Robert Watson, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine.

The second, Predicting and preventing opioid misuse through innovative technologies and care models: A transdisciplinary collaboratory, is led by Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH, associate vice president of strategic partnerships and initiatives, Health Science Center, chair of Opioid Task Force, associate dean of research and Regents and Distinguished Professor, School of Public Health. Members of the team include Joy P Alonzo, M. Engineering, PharmD, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy; Mark E. Benden, PhD, CPE, department head, School of Public Health; Gang Han, PhD, associate professor, School of Public Health; Carly McCord, PhD, clinical research assistant professor, College of Medicine; Ranjana Mehta, PhD, assistant professor, School of Public Health; Matthew Smith, PhD, MPH, CHES, associate professor, School of Public Health; and Lixian Zhong, PhD, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. They hope to advance an interdisciplinary opioid collaboratory to design and test pilot interventions for the opioid epidemic.

The other seven Health Science Center faculty-led projects that will be moving forward to submit a preliminary proposal are:

  1. Development of non-invasive biomarkers and therapeutic interventions for obesity associated mental health, led by Narendra Kumar, PhD, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy
    1. Co-led by Jayshree Mishra, PhD, research assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and Srinath Palakurthi, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy
    2. Members of the team include William Griffith, PhD, Regents Professor and head of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine; Karienn Montgomery, PhD, postdoctoral research associate, College of Medicine; and Hongwei Zhao, ScD, professor, School of Public Health
  2. Bridging dimensions of alcohol and substance abuse, from genes to psycho-social determinants: Implications for individualized prevention and treatment, led by Rajesh Miranda, PhD, professor, College of Medicine
    1. Members of the team include Suzy B Gulliver, PhD, director and chief, Baylor Scott & White Warriors Research Institute; Israel Liberzon, MD, head of the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine; Annette Karena Regan, PhD, MPH, assistant professor, School of Public Health; Brandon Williamson, MD, clinical assistant professor, College of Medicine; and Meredith Williamson, PhD, clinical assistant professor, College of Medicine
  3. Investigating the role of infection in triggering and exacerbating neurodegenerative disease, led by Kristin Patrick, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine
    1. Co-led by Robert Watson, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine
    2. Members of the team include Helene Andrews-Polymenis, DVM, PhD, professor and Presidential Impact Fellow, College of Medicine; Cedric Geoffroy, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; Jennifer Hyde, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; James Samuel, PhD, head of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, College of Medicine; Ashok K Shetty, PhD, professor, College of Medicine; Farida Sohrabji, PhD, professor and associate department chair, College of Medicine; Rahul Srinivasan, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; A. Phillip West, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; and Laura Ciaccia West, research assistant professor, College of Medicine
  4. Electroceuticals as innovative nerve-stimulating therapies for chronic nervous system disorders, led by Samba Reddy, PhD, RPh, professor, College of Medicine
    1. Co-led by Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Engineering Health (EnHealth) and executive dean for the Engineering Medicine (EnMed) program
    2. Members of the team include Mansoor A. Khan, RPH PhD, vice dean College of Pharmacy College Station campus, professor and head, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, director Formulations and Drug Delivery Core Laboratory, Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy; Ranjana Mehta, PhD, assistant professor, School of Public Health; Ashok K Shetty, PhD, professor, College of Medicine; Rahul Srinivasan, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; Gerard Toussaint, MD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; and Xin Wu, MD, research assistant professor, College of Medicine
  5. Brain health and the gut microbiome, led by Farida Sohrabji, PhD, professor and associate department chair, College of Medicine
    1. Co-led by Lee Shapiro, PhD, associate professor, College of Medicine, and Michelle Hook Schapiro, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine
    2. Members of the team include William Griffith, PhD, head of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine, and Karienn Montgomery, PhD, postdoctoral research associate, College of Medicine
  6. New health discoveries through space life science research, led by David C Zawieja, PhD, head of the Department of Medical Physiology, College of Medicine
    1. Members of the team include Pooneh Bagher, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine; Anatoliy Gashev, MD, PhD, associate professor, College of Medicine; Carl Gregory, PhD, associate professor, College of Medicine; Travis W. Hein, PhD, professor, College of Medicine; and Robert Rosa, MD, professor of surgery, College of Medicine
  7. Anti-cancer combinatorial drug discovery through high-throughput synergy learning, led by Ke “Kurt” Zhang, PhD, associate professor, Institute of Biosciences and Technology
    1. Co-led by Peter Davies, MD, PhD, director of the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology
    2. Members of the team include Clifford Stephan, PhD, research associate professor and director, Center for Translational Cancer Research, Institute of Biosciences and Technology, and Hongbin Wang, PhD, professor, College of Medicine

— Christina Sumners

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