Young researchers will further work in prenatal care, cancer immunotherapy and microRNA through career development program

From left to right: Mario Acunzo, M.D., Elizabeth Wolf, M.D., Guizhi (Julian) Zhu, Ph.D.

By Anne Dreyfuss
VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

Virginia Commonwealth University this month welcomed three clinician researchers to a mentored career development program designed to prepare them for the health care challenges of the future.

Elizabeth Wolf, M.D., and Mario Acunzo, M.D., both from the VCU School of Medicine, and Guizhi (Julian) Zhu, Ph.D., from the VCU School of Pharmacy, have been named Clinical Research KL2 Scholars. The KL2 program provides early-career researchers with dedicated time to help their findings benefit human health more quickly, while becoming successful, independent translational scientists.

“There is a national need to increase the clinical and translational research workforce and prepare the future generation of research leaders to address imminent health care challenges,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “Through opportunities like the KL2 research program, VCU is leveraging its interdisciplinary strengths in clinical research and community engagement to make meaningful improvements in patient care.”

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Passion pays off: Sanyal to receive premier award in field of liver disease

By Polly Roberts
VCU School of Medicine

Headshot of Dr. Sanyal

In November 2018, Arun Sanyal, M.D., will accept the 2018 Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. The award signifies 30 years of research including 17 continuous years of National Institutes of Health funding, the development of therapeutics reducing liver disease across the globe, and countless international leadership roles and awards.

“This is the premier award in the field of liver disease and Dr. Sanyal is most deserving,” says Dean of Medicine Peter F. Buckley, M.D. “His work is the definition of translational medicine. Through his extraordinary commitment to research, teaching and patient care, and to always finding a better way, he has improved the standard of care for liver disease around the world.” Read More

Interdisciplinary VCU research team overcomes obstacles to improve health for people with diabetes

By Anne Dreyfuss
VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

At first, it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. An interdisciplinary research team of Virginia Commonwealth University faculty members and students had applied for federal funding to create a virtual diabetes education program that would empower people living with diabetes to manage their disease, but their grant application was denied.

“We thought we were going to receive funding,” said Alex Krist, M.D., a family medicine professor at VCU School of Medicine. “At the last minute we didn’t, but Privia Medical Group offered to help us as part of their clinical mission.”

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Wright Center leadership and distinguished chairs honored at Investiture Dinner

By Anne Dreyfuss
VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

Virginia Commonwealth University honored more than 50 faculty members who have recently been awarded endowed professorship and chair positions at the VCU Investiture Dinner, which was held on Sept. 27 at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va.

“It is an honor to see this remarkable group of colleagues recognized for their work to advance our missions of education, patient care and discovery,” said VCU School of Medicine Dean Peter F. Buckley, M.D., who presided over the ceremony with VCU School of Business Dean Ed Grier.

Dr. Melissa Moeller, Dr. Frederick Moeller, Mary Macrina and Dr. Frank Macrina pose for a photo at the Investiture Dinner on Oct. 22
Left to right: Melissa Moeller, O.D.; Frederick G. Moeller, M.D.; Mary Macrina; Frank Macrina, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy Chris Ijams)

In addition to recognizing the recipients of endowed professorships and chairs, the event honors the donors whose generous contributions to the university made the positions possible. Donors sat among the faculty recipients at the event, where faculty members were formally invested and presented with medallions. Read More

Family medicine physician is sixth faculty member at VCU to be elected to the National Academy of Medicine

By Anne Dreyfuss
VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research

Alex Krist, M.D., a professor of family medicine in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health.

Krist, a practicing family medicine physician, teaches resident physicians at the VCU-Fairfax Family Medicine Residency and serves as vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. He is the co-director of community-engaged research at the VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the only institution in Virginia to receive a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. The five-year, $21.5 million award is the largest NIH grant ever bestowed to VCU. It allows the center to support clinical research, integrate research and clinical practice and provide training to develop the clinical research workforce.

“I blend being a practicing family physician, teaching new physicians, conducting research and evaluating evidence to inform policy,” Krist said. “Each activity informs the other. For example, being a busy family physician helps shape my research to address the problems real-world patients and physicians face. Likewise, most of my research helps guide the steps I need to take to be a better physician.” Read More

A study in the science of play: Does early engagement help premature babies thrive?

The team of researchers was awarded a $2.84 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to facilitate the multi-site clinical trial, “Efficacy of Motor and Cognitive Intervention for Infants Born Preterm (SPEEDI2).”The program is based on two smaller studies using Supporting Play, Exploration and Early Developmental Intervention (SPEEDI) developed through a series of studies at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Stacey Dusing, Ph.D., a board-certified pediatric physical therapy specialist and associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at VCU and the Department of Pediatrics at CHoR, is the principal investigator for the project and the impetus behind the study concept. Read More

CCTR Endowment Fund Yields Exciting New Research

VCU surgeon Sudha Jayaraman, M.D., and VCU School of Pharmacy assistant professor Dayanjan Wijesinghe, Ph.D., have collaborated on using mass spectrometry to analyze medications that are in trauma patients’ blood.   With funding from the CCTR Endowment Fund, and other VCU sources, their objective was to assess the feasibility of using mass spectrometry in a clinical setting.    With the help of  VCU Innovation Gateway, they have applied for a patent on the application and set up a company to market it, Mass Diagnostix.

The interdisciplinary VCU team hopes the use of mass spectrometry to analyze patients’ medications will become common practice. They predict in a few years, use of the machines  will be standard practice for hospital laboratories.

We are excited to have been able to have helped this project along its way.

For more information about this project, please go to VCU News.

About the CCTR Endowment Fund:   The VCU Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research’s Endowment Fund supports meritorious pilot and feasibility research.  This mechanism can support research that applies discoveries generated in the laboratory and preclinical studies to the development of clinical trials. It also may fund proposals that seek to understand the biological basis for clinical manifestations. In addition, these funds may be used by faculty with well-established community academic partnerships for community engaged pilot research activities.

The next deadline for applications will be August 1, November 1 and February 1 for individual awards ($50,000) and May 1 for multi-school awards ($130,000)


KL2 Alumna, Dr Esra Sahingur, honored by WISDM

Congratulations to Dr. S. Esra Sahingur as the 2018 Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement Award winner in Dentistry. This award recognizes excellence in leadership, advocacy and mentoring. Dr. Sahingur is a noted research in periodontics and systemic relationships to oral disease.  She is also a Wright Center KL2 Scholar alumna.

The Wright Center’s KL2 program, established in 2010, is uniquely focused on high quality career development in clinical and translational research, engaging a diverse pool of faculty mentors and mentees across a range of disciplines to approach science through a “disease-agnostic” translational lens.  This dynamic and responsive program is unlike any other at VCU and is an integrated and synergistic component of the Wright Center and university-wide workforce development. The broad ranging educational programs of the Wright Center and the KL2 will continue to expand research capacity in Virginia, nationally, and across the network of CTSA hubs capitalizing on strengths in Community Engaged Research, Team Science, and Informatics. 

For more information about the Wright Center and its training programs for faculty, including the KL2 and Emerging Scholars programs, please contact Dr. Pam Dillon, Research Liason.  

Wright CCTR Endowment Fund Application Deadlines Approaching!

The deadline is quickly approaching for awards!
Submit your multi-school awards by May 1st!
The VCU Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research’s Endowment Fund supports meritorious pilot and feasibility research. Multi-disciplinary research teams may apply for up to $130,000 to support research that involves collaborators from at least two different VCU schools. Applications including researchers from multiple disciplines are not only encouraged, but highly desirable. Application information and materials may be found at

Calling all researchers!

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine sponsors a number of awards for postdoctoral and senior researchers at participating federal laboratories and affiliated institutions.
These awards include generous stipends ranging from $45,000 – $80,000 per year for recent Ph.D. recipients, and higher for additional experience. Limited graduate level awards are available. These awards provide the opportunity for recipients to do independent research in some of the best-equipped and staffed laboratories in the U.S. Research opportunities are open to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and for some of the laboratories, foreign nationals.
Four annual review cycles:
   •  November; Opens September 1; Closes November 1
   •  February; Opens December 1; Closes February 1
   •  May; Opens March 1; Closes May 1
   •  August; Opens June 1; Closes August 1
Applicants should contact prospective Research Adviser(s) at the lab(s) prior to the application deadline to discuss their research interests and funding opportunities.
For more information please visit the National Academies: Research Associate Programs