UNC Program for Precision Medicine in Health Care (PPMH) announces pilot grant awardees

The PPMH matched funds from the NC TraCS $5-$50K Pilot Program for six principal investigators in the UNC School of Medicine who proposed projects that would generate evidence for implementation of precision medicine approaches in the UNC Health system and beyond.

UNC Program for Precision Medicine in Health Care (PPMH) announces pilot grant awardees click to enlarge Top row (left to right): Claire Doerschuk, MD, Zibo Li, PhD, and Jorge Oldan, MD. Bottom row (left to right): Timothy Vece, MD, James Hagood, MD, and Neeta Vora, MD.

The UNC Program for Precision Medicine in Health Care (PPMH), which aims to transform patient care through evidence-based precision medicine, and the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) have awarded four pilot grants. The pilot grants have direct clinical or human translational impact and are focused on the implementation of precision medicine approaches in the UNC Health system and the state of North Carolina. PPMH will be providing the matching funds for these pilot grants.

Claire Doerschuk, MD, Professor of Medicine, will lead a study titled, “A Precision Medicine Approach to DNase Therapy in Patients with ARDS or Pneumonia: Which Patients May Benefit from DNase?”. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) occurs when fluid builds up in lung alveoli. This study will evaluate the effectiveness of DNase (Pulmozyme) in reducing the viscoelastic properties of airway secretions from ARDS and pneumonia patients and will identify parameters that can be used to predict which patients will benefit from DNase therapy.

Zibo Li, PhD, Associate Professor of Radiology, and Jorge Oldan, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiology, will jointly lead a project titled “Development of [18F]-labeled Amino Acids for Positron Emission Tomography (PET).” The Li lab recently discovered two [18F]-labeled amino acids showing extensive tumor uptake but low background accumulation. This study will evaluate the potential of these radiolabeled amino acids for use in oncology PET imaging. Optically pure radiolabeled amino acids will be synthesized and evaluated in mouse models.

Timothy Vece, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, and James Hagood, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, will jointly lead a project titled, “A Pilot Study of Precision Medicine for Children’s Interstitial Lung Disease (chILD).” chILD is a heterogeneous group of rare pediatric lung disorders that share common clinical features, and there is not yet a standardized approach to genetic testing for chILD. This pilot project will evaluate the usefulness of a curated gene panel for the molecular diagnosis of chILD in patients displaying chILD symptoms but lacking a genetic diagnosis. Identifying the underlying cause of chILD symptoms will likely lead to therapy changes for these patients.

Neeta Vora, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, will lead a study, “Expanding the Utility of Non-Invasive Prenatal Genetic Testing.” Non-invasive prenatal screening utilizing cell-free fetal DNA has the potential to identify large chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.  This proof-of-technology project will demonstrate an approach for the first sequencing-based screening panel to detect both dominant and recessive conditions in the fetus using maternal blood. The results from this study will build towards a new population-scale non-invasive prenatal test for medically-actionable genetic diseases.

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