Owens wins multi-year “Pathway to Independence” K99/R00 grant award

Congratulations to A. Phil Owens, III, PhD, a post-doctoral trainee in the Mackman lab at the UNC McAllister Heart Institute. With this award, Dr. Owens will have support to transition from a mentored research environment with Dr. Nigel Mackman to an independent laboratory setting. Dr. Owens’ research focuses on abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and the role of coagulation and platelets in protecting AAA from ruptures.

The four- to five-year grant provided by the NIH allows for one to two years of mentored post-docotoral research, followed by up to three years of independent research provided the researcher is on a path to tenure at his or her institution.

Dr. Owens’ research on AAA is significant for many reasons. AAA is a dilation of the aorta which may result in catastrophic rupture and death. This cardiovascular disease is estimated to affect almost 10% of people over the age of 50 with an estimated 1 out of every 250 people affected. As such, between 15,000 and 30,000 Americans die every year due to this disease. Despite decades of research, there are no clinically approved drug regimens for this disease. Since this affects elderly populations, these patients are commonly on antithrombotic therapies for other cardiovascular diseases.

“Our preliminary data indicate that the activation of coagulation may be beneficial to prevent catastrophic rupture of the aorta resulting in death in these patients,” said Dr. Owens. “A better understanding of the role of the coagulation system and platelets in AAA may prevent an increased risk of rupture for AAA patients by prohibiting the use of antithrombotic drug therapies in these patients.”

Read more about the work of Dr. Owens and others in the Mackman lab online.