Cutting edge research is not a solo act. Successful results are acquired through an ensemble effort, like the Georgia ImmunoEngineering Consortium, a collaborative partnership of multidisciplinary researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.
But even the best collaborations require nurturing if they are to blossom into world-changing discoveries. That’s where the ImmunoEngineering Seed Grant program comes in.
“These seed grants allow us to pilot new ideas, gather data and be more competitive for large federal grants,” says Krish Roy, director of the ImmunoEngineering Research Center at Georgia Tech. “It also builds new bridges – collaborations across Georgia Tech and Emory, by providing ways to work together and generate new ideas, gather new data.”
Five new “bridges” – teams of Georgia Tech/Emory researchers – have just received important foundational support through the seed grant program for 2015-2016. These research proposals, each receiving a $50,000 award, are:
• “DNA-barcoded peptide-MHC tetramers for profiling antigen-specific T cells.” Researchers: Gabe Kwong (Georgia Tech), John Altman (Emory).
• “Modulation of early inflammatory response to prevent muscle degeneration in massive rotator cuff tears.” Researchers: Claudius Jarrett (Emory), Johnna Temenoff (Georgia Tech).
• “Development of novel immune enhancing microparticle-conjugated RIG-I agonist.” Researchers: Mehul Suthar (Emory), Krish Roy (Georgia Tech).
• “Engineered mesenchymal stromal cells for enhancing lymphangiogenesis as a therapeutic for osteoarthritis.” Researchers: Nick Willet (Emory/Georgia Tech), J. Brandon Dixon (Georgia Tech), Rebecca Levit (Emory).
• Human mesenchymal stem cell-driven immunomodulation for enhanced engraftment of human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes.” Researchers: Young-Sup Yoon (Emory), Satish Kumar (Georgia Tech).
“We congratulate this year’s class of ImmunoEngineering Seed Grant recipients,” says C. Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), the lead granting agency for the program. “The collaborative work of Georgia Tech and Emory researchers is developing innovative approaches for groundbreaking research.”
The Georgia ImmunoEngineering Consortium brings together engineers, chemists, physicists, computational scientists, immunologists and clinicians to collaboratively explore the inner workings of the immune system in a quest for breakthrough solutions to improve the lives of people suffering from cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders (such as diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibrosis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.), as well as those individuals undergoing regenerative therapies (think of transplantation, spinal cord injury, bone and cartilage repair, etc.).
“In addition to fundamental immunology studies, the program also supports studies aimed at improving our ability to predict, measure and manipulate the intensity, quality and durability of the immune response,” notes Ignacio Sanz, a GRA Eminent Scholar and director of the Lowance Center for Human Immunology at Emory, where he also serves as chief of the Division of Rheumatology.
While GRA provides most of the funding for the seed grant program additional funding is provided by Emory and Georgia Tech. Roy likens the program to an early stage venture investment.
“If you find ten really good ideas that are already pre-screened and peer-reviewed, the chances are, when those apply for large federal grants the success rates will be high,” says Roy, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department of Emory and Georgia Tech. “Even if only two or three of those 10 gets funded and becomes successful, that represents a manifold return on investment.”
In other words, the ImmunoEngineering Seed Grant program and the winning proposals are a research community example of smart money aimed at a good bet.
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience