The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following New Investigator Program grants in 2012:

Cholecystokinin in the Survival of Human Pancreatic Islets

Dawn Davis, MD, PhD, Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

Diabetes is a disease that affects almost 300,000 people in Wisconsin, a number that has nearly doubled over the past 15 years and is expected to triple in the next 15 years. Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

A key problem in type 2 diabetes is ongoing death of pancreatic beta-cells that produce insulin. The hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) can prevent beta-cell death in mouse models of diabetes. This project tests the ability of CCK to protect human beta-cells and explore its treatment potential for type 2 diabetes.

Circulating Tumor Cells in Renal Cell Carcinoma: Biomarkers for Personalized Medicine

Joshua Lang, MD, MS, Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

Renal cell carcinoma is the eighth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Despite many new treatment options, metastatic kidney cancer remains incurable with a median survival less than two years.

This project uses a novel technology developed at UW-Madison to capture tumor cells in the bloodstream, known as circulating tumor cells, from patients with kidney cancer, and test them for sensitivity to anti-cancer therapies. The goal is personalization of therapies and better treatment options for Wisconsin patients with kidney cancer.

Discharge Order Completeness and 30-Day Rehospitalizations in Rural Wisconsin Nursing Home Patients

Amy Kind, MD, PhD, Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

Of the 5 million Medicare patients discharged from hospitals to nursing homes each year, one in four is rehospitalized within 30 days. In Wisconsin, these rehospitalizations cost more than $30 million annually. Poor hospital-nursing home communication at the time of hospital discharge can lead to rehospitalization, especially for patients with dementia who often have limited ability to advocate for needed care.

The project evaluates the association between discharge orders and local rehospitalization data for a random sample of patients discharged to nursing homes in 2012 from three rural Wisconsin hospitals. This work holds the potential to improve hospital-nursing home communication and patient care throughout Wisconsin.

Dissecting Cross-Species Transmission of Influenza Virus

Andrew Mehle, PhD, Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Infections from seasonal influenza viruses cause up to 36,000 deaths per year in the United States alone and are the frequent cause of patient visits to health care providers in Wisconsin. These seasonal infections are punctuated by pandemic outbreaks as new viruses move from animals to humans, often causing high mortality. 

This project explores the diversity of influenza hosts and the process by which the virus jumps species. Findings could suggest strategies to prevent influenza virus from jumping across species, to limit the spread after transmission has occurred and to help predict, and possibly prevent, future widespread outbreaks of the flu.