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Li Qian, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, member of UNC McAllister Heart Institute, has received the inaugural Transformational Project Award from the American Heart Association. This award aims to “support highly innovative, high-impact projects that build on work in progress that could ultimately lead to critical discoveries or major advancements that will accelerate the field of cardiovascular and stroke research.”

Li Qian, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, member of the McAllister Heart Institute, has received the 2018 Transformational Project Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) with 3 years funding in the amount of $300,000 to support Qian Lab’s continued effort in using reprogramming approaches to mend broken hearts. Dr. Qian’s work in cardiac reprogramming has opened a new field of study and represents a promising alternative approach to cardiac regeneration. Her ground-breaking work demonstrated that endogenous cardiac fibroblasts can be directly converted into cardiomyocyte-like cells in their native environment, which translated into functional improvement and scar size reduction in an animal model of myocardial infarction. Since being recruited to UNC in 2012, her lab has developed a system in which cardiac reprogramming can be rigorously studied and implemented. Milestone work from the Qian Lab translating basic science into developing innovative therapeutic strategies for heart disease has been published in journals including Nature, Science, Cell Stem Cell, Cell Reports, Circulation Research, and Cardiovascular Research.

This year, the AHA released a new award mechanism, the Transformational Project Award, to encourage investigators to develop bold ideas on an emerging paradigm. According to the AHA, “this award represents the second phase of a successful exploratory study that is already showing a high probability of revealing new avenues of investigation.” Dr. Qian’s pioneering work in cardiac reprogramming and proposed continued research in further developing the technique and understanding the underlying mechanism align well with the purpose of this award. With this research fund, her team will continue a combinatorial utilization of single cell platforms, various omics approaches, and cutting-edge molecular assays to move this cellular reprogramming approach closer to clinical application on a significant population in US who suffer from heart failure.

This is one of several recent AHA awards for Qian Lab. Dr. Qian’s graduate student Haley Vaseghi and research associate Li Wang have successfully competed for the 2018 AHA Predoctoral Fellowship and 2018 AHA Career Development Award respectively.