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ASU-Mayo seed grants advance new research in cancer, obesity

doctor examining x-ray
November 13, 2014

Each year, the ASU-Mayo Seed Grant Program funds promising new research projects aimed at improving human health. This year, 10 teams have been selected for the 2015 program to advance research in critical areas that include cancer, bioinformatics, neuroscience technology, detection and imaging, health care delivery, and metabolic disease and obesity

The seed grant program, which has funded 64 projects since it was established in 2004, is yet another aspect of the ASU-Mayo Clinic relationship, with its long history of successful collaborations in health care, medical research and education. The partnership includes joint faculty appointments, degree programs and research projects, and the ASU Department of Biomedical Informatics, which is located at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale campus.

“The program is directed at forming cross-institutional collaborations between researchers whose expertise is complementary. They develop vigorous research projects combining basic biomedical and behavior research with clinical research,” says William Petuskey, associate vice president of science, engineering and technology for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU and an administrator of the seed grant program. “The synergies that have evolved from these initial connections have resulted in much larger research programs that have translated to tangible and valuable benefits to patients.”

Creating funding opportunities

Seed grants launch promising new research projects and bring them to the point where they can attract more substantial funding from external sources. For example, Ariel Anbar, President’s Professor from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Rafael Fonseca from Mayo Clinic received a seed grant in 2012 to study calcium isotopes as indicators of the progress of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. Since then, the team has received $1.2 million in additional funding from organizations including NASA, Flinn Foundation and Arizona Science Foundation.

“The ASU-Mayo Seed Grant Program enabled us to generate pilot data showing that our geochemical technique could provide insight into a disease,” says Anbar. “This allowed us to secure a new round of funding from NASA’s human research program, generate the data for a recent paper in (the journal) Leukemia, and positions us well to pursue funding from the National Institutes of Health."

Due to a significant increase in applicants over last year, the program doubled the number of awards given, from five in 2014 to 10 in 2015. Next year, the program will raise the total potential award to $50,000 for eight winning teams.

"The seed grant program has served as a platform for innovative, medically relevant scientific research for over a decade,” says Dean Wingerchuk, professor of neurology and vice chair for clinical research at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “It continues to facilitate productive investigative teamwork between Mayo Clinic and ASU, resulting in substantial growth of programs in areas of mutual interest and priority.”

2015 projects

• “Electrocorticographic recordings from human cortex for mapping cortical information processing and decoding dextrous hand movements.” Bradley Greger, associate professor, ASU School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering; Joseph Drazkowski, professor of neurology, Mayo Clinic.

• “Continuous blood lactate monitoring in critically ill patients.” Jeffrey LaBelle, assistant professor, ASU School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering; Ayan Sen, assistant professor of emergency medicine, Mayo Clinic.

• “Robust intensity-modulated proton therapy.” Jianming Liang, associate professor, ASU Department of Biomedical Informatics; Wei Liu, assistant professor of radiation oncology, Mayo Clinic.

• “Single cell analysis of breast cancer tumor heterogeneity.” Karen Anderson, associate professor, ASU Biodesign Institute; Michael Barrett, associate professor of neurology, Mayo Clinic.

• “Magnetic resonance imaging texture analysis for the discrimination of human papilloma virus related oropharyngeal cancer.” Jing Li, associate professor, ASU School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering; Joseph Hoxworth, assistant professor of radiology, Mayo Clinic.

• “New emotion-focused interventions for smoking prevention and cessation.” Michelle Shiota, associate professor, ASU Department of Psychology; Scott Leischow, professor of health services research, Mayo Clinic.

• “A new dimension in modeling irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to elucidate novel diagnostic biomarkers and microbiome signatures.” Cheryl Nickerson, professor, ASU Biodesign Institute; Amy Foxx-Orenstein, professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic.

• “Development of an in vivo canine larynx with full neuromuscular control.” Juergen Neubauer, associate research professor, ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change; David Lott, assistant professor of otolaryngology, Mayo Clinic.

• “Multivariable models of brain structure that classify post-traumatic headache and differentiate it from migraine.” Visar Berisha, assistant professor, ASU College of Health Solutions; Todd Schwedt, associate professor of neurology, Mayo Clinic.

• “Anticipatory analytics for post-cardiac surgery cognitive impairment.” Daniel Bliss, associate professor, ASU School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering; Amy Crepeau, assistant professor of neurology, Mayo Clinic.

Learn more about past seed grant recipients. If you are an ASU researcher, sign up to receive notifications about funding.

Written by Kelsey Wharton, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.