The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following New Investigator Program grants in 2013:

Nanoparticles for Treating Restenosis: Sustained and Targeted Local Drug Delivery

Lian-Wang Guo, PhD, Surgery
Award: $100,000 over two years

Recurrent cardiovascular disease following open vascular reconstruction is a major and serious public health problem that affects several hundred thousand people in the United States each year.  The long-term goal of this project is to create a new drug delivery system that is effective in preventing intimal hyperplasia (IH) and can be readily applied at the time of open vascular reconstruction.

Drugs to prevent IH have been developed; however, delivery of these drugs to the treated artery remains a challenge. An improved method of preventing recurrent vascular disease would lead to a substantial reduction in morbidity and mortality for patients who undergo not only open vascular reconstruction but angioplasty as well.

Mechanistic Insights into the Role of Grainyhead Proteins in Neural Tube Closure Defects

Melissa Harrison, AB, PhD, Biomolecular Chemistry
Award: $100,000 over two years

One of the most common and crippling human birth defects results from the failure to properly form the neural tube during embryonic development. Although maternal folate supplementation has decreased the occurrence of neural tube closure defects, rates remain at approximately 1 in 2,000 births in the United States.  

The long-term objective of this research is to determine the causes of these folate-resistant defects with the hope of developing methods to treat or prevent spina bifida, anencephaly, encephaloceles and other neural tube defects. Given that the rate of these types of defects is higher in Wisconsin than the national average, this research aims to develop strategies that ultimately improve the health of the state of Wisconsin.

The Effectiveness of an Integrated Mental Health and Primary Care Model for Wisconsin Patients with Severe Mental Illness

Nancy Pandhi, MD, MPH, PhD, Family Medicine
Award: $100,000 over two years

Mental health disorders are the third most costly medical condition in the United States, and 5.4 percent of adults in Wisconsin have severe mental illness (SMI), including bipolar disorders or psychotic illnesses. Despite increasing awareness of the interdependence between physical and mental health, people with SMI usually receive care in separate primary care and psychiatric specialty care systems.

To reduce this fragmentation and improve health in the SMI population, it is critical to understand the effectiveness of an integrated care delivery model that delivers both mental health and physical health care in the same setting compared to care delivered in separate primary and specialty care settings. This research partnership compares outcomes in patients with severe mental illness who receive care through an integrated model at a community health center to those in an academic health system through a usual care model.

Aligning Preferences of Older Adults with Decisions for High-Risk Surgery

Grant discontinued by Partnership Education and Research Committee

Margaret L. Schwarze, MD, MPP, Surgery
Award: $100,000 over two years

A decision to proceed with high-risk surgical procedures can start a chronically ill elderly patient along a care trajectory that may be inconsistent with his or her personal preferences. This project aims to prevent such situations by training surgeons in the use of a preoperative communication tool that helps to help older patients determine treatment choices that better reflect their preferences, values and goals.

Designed for face-to-face clinical interactions, the communication tool in this study promotes dialogue, patient deliberation and shared treatment decisions that reflect the patient’s values and reduce the burdens of unwanted aggressive care. Each year, approximately 9,000 elderly people in Wisconsin undergo surgery in the last three months of life. This study aims to improve the quality of life for these and other patients.

Understanding HIV-1 Cell-to-cell Transmission

Nathan M. Sherer, PhD, Oncology
Award: $100,000 over two years

Although antiretroviral therapies can effectively suppress the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) within the immune cells of infected individuals, the therapies are not curative and drug-resistant forms of HIV often emerge. Therefore, there is a critical need for new insights into how HIV spreads from cell to cell and establishes a persistent infection.

This research focuses on the mechanisms of HIV cell-to-cell transmission with the potential for new avenues that lead to therapies for halting the spread of HIV in infected individuals and dramatically reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on public health. In Wisconsin, HIV infection remains a growing problem, especially among underrepresented populations with limited access to quality and affordable health care.