The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following New Investigator Program grants in 2005:

Second cycle

The Role of Ikaros in Cellular Proliferation

Sinisa Dovat, MD, Pediatrics
Award: $100,000 over two years

This project focuses on identifying proteins controlling cellular proliferation with the goal to use these results to design a better treatment for leukemia and other forms of cancer. Specifically, this project will study the role of the Ikaros protein, a known tumor suppressor, in the response to radiation-induced DNA damage.

Topical Honey for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Jennifer Eddy, MD, Family Medicine
Award: $99,976 over two years

More than 10 million people in the United States have diabetes; about 15 percent of those patients will develop ulcers of the lower legs or feet, sometimes requiring amputation. Honey has been used as a treatment for millennia, and medical reports suggest that it may contribute to healing in human and animal wounds. This project is a pilot study of the use of honey to treat diabetic foot ulcers.

Cellular and Viral Determinants of Human Cytomegalovirus Lytic and Latent Replication Cycles

Robert Kalejta, PhD, Oncology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a virus that infects most children, and usually remains dormant in the body for life. However, the virus can be re-activated, and has been implicated in a number of human diseases. Currently, there is no vaccine for HCMV. The research in this project will help to determine how HCMV infects people, how the dormant virus is re-activated, and will also help to identify targets for drugs to treat this infection.

Androgen Receptor as an Immunological Target for the Treatment of Prostate Cancer

Douglas McNeel, MD, PhD, Medicine
Award: $99,906 over two years

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States. New therapies are needed to reduce the numbers of people dying from this disease. This project will study the possibility of developing vaccines as a treatment for prostate cancer.

Wnt/Frizzled Signals in Normal and Malignant Lymphoid Development

Erik Ranheim, MD, PhD, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

This research studies the cells involved in leukemia, and is aimed at understanding the pathways by which normal cells in the immune system develop and how that process might be abnormally turned on in leukemia.

Novel Exploratory Approaches to Elucidating the Role of GRAIL in CD25+ T Regulatory Cell Biological Function

Christine Seroogy, MD, Pediatrics
Award: $91,560 over two years

CD25+ T regulatory cells are important in modifying immune responses in varied human disease states, ranging from allergies to autoimmune diseases to rejection of transplanted organs. How this subset of T cells restores balance to immune responses remains poorly defined. By studying the biological mechanisms of the CD25+ T cells, important contributions can be made to therapeutic approaches for many human diseases.

GLI2 Protein Stabilization in the Activation of Hedgehog Signaling Pathway in Prostate Cancer

Vladimir Spiegelman, MD, PhD, Dermatology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States. There is poor understanding of the biological pathways that lead to prostate tumor development. This project will study the Hedgehog signaling pathway, with the ultimate goal of identifying targets for drugs for prostate cancer prevention and treatment.

Optimizing Immunuppressant Therapy Based on Viral Genetics to Improve Hepatitis C-Infected Transplant Patient Outcomes

Rob Striker, MD, PhD, Medicine and Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a major cause of liver disease worldwide, and the most common reason for liver transplant and retransplant in the United States. Clinical studies have shown that some immunosuppressant drugs can improve the outcomes for HCV infected patients, but there is no consensus about the optimal drug therapy. This project will allow development of molecular diagnostics to tailor immunosuppressant therapy to the specific HCV strain infecting a patient.

Effects of Statin Therapy on Vascular Properties and Outcomes in Diastolic Heart Failure Patients 

Nancy Sweitzer, MD, PhD, Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

Diastolic heart failure is a form of heart failure occurring most commonly in the elderly and in women. There are no established treatments for this disease. Although it has long been thought that abnormalities of heart function are responsible for the disease, it is increasingly apparent that there are abnormalities of the blood vessels in many of these patients which may contribute to development of diastolic heart failure. This study is a pilot clinical trial to test the effect of statin drugs on blood vessel properties, symptoms and disease progression in patients with diastolic heart failure.

Mechanisms of CREB Regulation and Function in Response to DNA Damage

Randal Tibbetts, PhD, Pharmacology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Genomic instablity resulting from unrepaired DNA damage is a root cause of human cancer development. The ATM gene plays a critical role in suppressing genomic instability. This project will study ATM function, and promises to yield new insights into how cells respond to DNA damage and how cancer arises.

First cycle

Healthy Children, Strong Families - Supporting Caregivers in Improving Lifestyles

Alexandra Adams, MD, PhD, Family Medicine
Award: $93,054 over two years

This project builds on a study of childhood obesity in three Wisconsin Native American tribes by evaluating metabolic and behavioral changes in the adult primary caregivers of American Indian children. By engaging the parents in behavior changes that will benefit themselves as well as their children, this study will allow researchers to determine whether a family-based intervention is an effective method for changing behavior in adult caregivers. Endocrinology fellow Deb Wubben, MD, MPH, will also be working on the project.

Investigating Fungal Infection: Analysis of Spores From the Human Fungal Pathogen Cryptococcus Neoformans

Christina Hull, PhD, Biomolecular Chemistry and Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Often, fungal growth and development result in the production of spores that can disperse into the environment, be inhaled by humans and germinate in the lungs. C. neoformans is a yeast-like fungus that usually causes only minor respiratory disease but can also disseminate to the central nervous system and produce a fatal form of meningitis. The goal of this project is to understand the properties of fungal spores that allow them to infect humans and cause disease.

Molecular Analysis of the Putative Mammalian siRNase ERI-1

Scott Kennedy, PhD, Pharmacology
Award: $100,000 over two years

RNA interference takes advantage of a naturally occurring process to degrade RNA, the intermediary translator between the DNA of genes and the protein molecules they encode. By degrading RNA, genes can be "turned off." Initial successes using RNA interference to target cancer genes have generated excitement that this technology may eventually be used to treat human disease.

The project will increase knowledge of RNA interference and how the process is regulated. It may identify drug targets that eventually will allow physicians to use RNA interference as a therapy in a wide spectrum of diseases.

Sterol Carrier Protein 2 is a Novel Link Between Aging and Alzheimer's Disease

Luigi Puglielli, MD, PhD, Medicine
Award:$100,000 over two years

This project seeks to identify new molecular links between aging, Alzheimer's disease and cholesterol metabolism. Sterol carrier protein-2 is a small protein that is highly expressed in the brain, can function as a cholesterol carrier and is activated in an age-dependent fashion.

Since intracellular cholesterol metabolism and distribution can regulate the rate of amyloid â-peptide generation, the first molecular step in the development of Alzheimer's disease, understanding more about sterol carrier protein 2 may shed new light on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.

Novel Therapies Against Influenza Infection

Stacey Schultz-Cherry, PhD, Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Two of limitations to the existing flu vaccine are that the vaccine does not work effectively in high-risk groups, such as the elderly, and the virus changes every year, requiring the development of new vaccines annually. Blocking viral replication with novel antiviral peptides that attack all strains of influenza virus may be a way to address those limitations. The goals of this project are to understand how antiviral peptides regulate viral growth, and how these peptides may be used in preventing and treating influenza infection in young and aged animal models.

Molecular Mechanism of Lung Organogenesis, Tumorigenesis and Asthma

Xin Sun, PhD, Medical Genetics
Award: $100,000 over two years

The long-term goal of this research is to establish the genetic bases for devastating lung diseases such as Respiratory Distress Syndrome, lung cancer and asthma. Researchers on this project expect to use a combination of advanced genomic and genetic approaches to uncover gene function related to the development of the lung and diseases that affect it.