Aerial photography of VCU's Monroe Park campus and downtown Richmond, VA at night time.

Blood pressure, proteins and precision health: Three research projects funded by the Wright Center

The Wright Center has awarded three VCU researchers grants from its Endowment Fund for health sciences research.

The awards support preliminary studies that enable researchers to develop hypotheses, collect preliminary data and establish methods necessary for successful external funding.

Lana Sargent, Ph.D., RN, CRNP, assistant professor in the VCU School of Nursing’s Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems, was awarded for her project: “The association of ambulatory blood pressure phenotypes with cognition in community-dwelling older adults: A pilot study.” Collaborators include Dave Dixon, Pharm.D., and Elvin Price, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Weihua Qiu, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry, was awarded for her project: “Active mechanism of mycobacterial membrane protein large 3 and its inhibition by SQ109.” Qiu’s co-principal investigator is Youzhong Guo, Ph.D.

And Youssef Roman, Pharm.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, was awarded for his project: “Cardiometabolic genomics and pharmacogenomics investigations in Filipino Americans: Steps towards precision health.” Roman will work with a community partner, the Filipino American Association of Central Virginia.

Wright Center Endowment Fund grants are awarded four times a year – three of those times to individual investigators and small groups of investigators. VCU faculty from both the MCV and Monroe Park campuses are encouraged to apply.

Congrats to Sargent, Qiu and Roman!

The next deadline for the grant is May 1, for a multi-school project funded at up to $130,000.

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Left to right: Lana Sargent, Weihua Qiu and Youssef Roman

Children are at heart for investigator funded by Wright Center’s pilot imaging grant

The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU spoke to Uyen Truong, M.D., about her research into pediatric pulmonary hypertension.

Last year, Truong received a Wright Center Pilot Imaging Fund award, supported by the National Institutes of Health, for her project titled “The impact of bariatric surgery on adolescent cardiovascular function.”

The fund supports pilot work that uses the Wright Center’s research-dedicated MRI. The submission deadline for applications is Feb. 21.

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Uyen Truong, M.D.

The goal of this study is to show that MRI is a safe and accurate method to assess the cardiovascular function of children with pulmonary hypertension. Success in this study has the potential of shifting the paradigm of pediatric pulmonary arterial hypertension care towards a safer, non-invasive monitoring modality and significantly improving quality of life in children with pulmonary hypertension.

Read more at the hospital’s website.

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The Wright Center is here to help with your research resolutions

Last year did not go as planned for anyone. But 2021 will slowly, we hope, bring a return to the new normal in our professional lives.

If more or better health-related research at VCU is one of your 2021 resolutions, the Wright Center can help. Find your research resolution below and see how.

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Wright Center events bring together VCU research leaders, health care providers and research professionals on timely topics.

Upcoming events include:

Bookmark the Wright Center’s calendar and make sure you’re signed up for the regular newsletter to be alerted of more upcoming events.

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The Wright Center’s funding opportunities include a few with upcoming deadlines:

  • The Endowment Fund for grant to individuals and small groups of investigations has a Feb. 1 deadline for its up-to-$50,000 award.
  • The Pilot Imaging Fund for grants up to $25,000 is accepting applications until Feb. 21 from investigators looking to use the Wright Center’s Collaborative Advanced Research Imaging (CARI) facility.
  • And the Clinical Research Voucher Program has a rolling deadline for investigators looking for funding to use VCU Health clinical research facilities and services.

Find more funding opportunities at the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation’s website and in RAMS-SPOT.

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Request access to a cohort discovery program that helps investigators test feasibility and collaborate with other institutions.

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Through the Wright Center, you can access Protocol Builder, a secure, cloud-based technology that helps investigators write interventional or observational research protocols. Find links and resources on protocol development. Read More

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Highlighting the Work of Richmond’s Community Health Workers and Advocates

The health of our community plays a key role in our personal well-being, which is why the work that community health workers and advocates do is so impactful. Public health warriors are on the front lines serving Richmond City’s vulnerable populations by advocating and educating their communities about their health and helping them navigate to services they need to improve their lives.

With funding from the Wright Center, the VCU Center on Society and Health and Initiatives of Change created an interactive story featuring Richmond’s community health workers and advocates. The story explores their work and their personal stories of overcoming adversity, as well as the importance of fostering community relationships.

Click here to explore the story.

This post originally appeared on the Center on Society and Health’s website.

photo of C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright

Wright Foundation gifts $16 million to the Wright Center

The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research has received a $16 million gift from the foundation of its namesake benefactors.

The funds are part of a $24 million gift from the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Foundation, announced on Friday. Four million dollars will go to the VCU College of Engineering, and another $4 million supports the VCU Health Adult Outpatient Pavilion.

The Wright Center’s $16 million will support the mission of the center — to advance science and foster partnerships that accelerate translational research for the betterment of human health. Plans to develop specific programs and scholarship around that vision are underway.

“We’re humbled by and grateful for the generosity that the Wrights and their foundation have shown our center,” said F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., director of the Wright Center. “This year has shown us how important clinical research is for the health of our community. And this gift will help the Wright Center promote important collaborative, community engaged research.”

C. Kenneth Wright made a $16 million gift in 2015 to name the Wright Center. The gift established six Distinguished Chairs in Clinical and Translational Research and a physician-scientist scholars program. Wright’s support has enabled the university to recruit distinguished researchers from around the country and helped VCU prepare scholars for careers along the spectrum of translational science.

In 2018, Wright renewed his support with a $5 million gift to expand the Wright Center’s biomedical informatics program.

The Wright gifts have helped the center leverage the support of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its 2010 Clinical and Translational Science Award of $20 million. The NIH renewed the award in 2018 with a $21.5 million grant — the largest NIH grant in VCU’s history.

Kenneth Wright passed away in 2019, and his wife, Dianne, died in 2013. Their foundation continues their dedicated work to fund research and education.

Read more at VCU News.

Image at top: C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright

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New K Award Seminar Series will help VCU early career faculty apply for NIH grants

The Wright Center introduces a new seminar series that will serve as an insider’s guide to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) K Awards.

Successful K Award applicants will share tips and tricks that attendees can apply to their own writing in a five-part series beginning in December. Attendees will be prepared to tackle their own application with confidence.

K Awards are career development awards, designed to help scientists, physician-scientists and clinicians conduct research while working toward independence and competitiveness for major grants. The awards develop the foundation for a productive scientific career in the fields of biomedical, clinical and behavioral science.

The hope is to increase the number of successful K Award applications by VCU junior faculty and create the infrastructure that keeps junior faculty on track to application. The series is part of the Wright Center’s many services designed to support early career researchers across the translational science spectrum.

The live, online series will occur on third Wednesdays from December to May. Attendance at all five is encouraged.

Part I: So you want a K Award?

Participants are offered an overview of K awards: the different types of K Award, their eligibility requirements, suggestions for packaging a successful K application and things to consider when moving from ideation to submission.
Dec. 16, 2020
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Patrick Nana-Sinkam, M.D.
Register now

Part II: The Science: tips and tricks for your K’s specific aims and research strategy

Participants are offered tips and tricks for drafting compelling specific aims and subsections of the research strategy (Significance, Innovation, Approach). Participants will explore the intersection of the proposed research and the career development plan, and they will learn strategies to organize research design while avoiding common mistakes.
Jan. 20, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Danielle Dick, Ph.D.
Register now

Part III: All about you and your team: tips and tricks for your K’s candidate/career plan and mentor team

Participants are offered best practices on constructing the candidate section (background, career goals/objectives, career development/training, and mentoring plan/team) as it intersects with research strategy. Participants will learn strategies for mentor letters, organizing information and understanding relationships between/among goals, objectives, activities and specific aims.
Feb. 17, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D.
Register now

Part IV: The nuts and bolts

Participants will learn how to draft the abstract, project narrative, cover letter and facilities/resources section. In addition, participants will explore best practices in addressing human subject research, constructing a budget and organizing biosketches. Finally, participants  will review the grant submission/review process and what to expect from the moment of submission to receipt of a summary statement.
March 17, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: TBD
Register now

Part V: You got it. Now what?

This session is offered to recent recipients of K awards and hopeful recipients of K awards.  Participants will learn tips and tricks on how to maximize their award and ensure milestones are met. Participants will discuss strategies to leverage the K award for transitioning to independence. Finally, the participants will explore the need for and sources of funding for their research beyond the K awards $25k allocation.
May 19, 2021
1 – 2 p.m.
Facilitator: Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D.
Register now

For more information about the series, contact Rob DiRenzo.

Subscribe to the Wright Center’s newsletter for reminders about upcoming events.

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MCV Foundation’s NEXT magazine features Wright Center researchers, studies

The latest issue of MCV Foundation’s NEXT magazine is out, and the Wright Center plays a big role. The issue focuses on COVID-19 research and highlights the innovation and resourcefulness shown by VCU researchers, including many from the Wright Center and those funded by center grants.

Director F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., and the Wright Center frame the lead story, “The Great Shake Up: How COVID-19 upended and refocused research at VCU Health.”

“Our researchers and administrators really stepped up to the plate in every way,” Moeller told NEXT. “It’s not a scenario that individual researchers can really plan for, but they have really managed it well.”

Also featured in that story are:

  • John Ryan, Ph.D., a professor of biology who serves on the Wright Center’s Operations Committee
  • Somaya Albhaisi, M.D., whose COVID-19 registry is funded in part by the Wright Center
  • Translational Scholar Caitlin Martin, M.D.

Other Wright Center leaders and researchers featured in stories include:

  • Arun Sanyal’s, M.D., in “Remdesivir: Establishing a Standard of Care for COVID-19”
  • Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., and Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., in “Calming the Cytokine Storm of COVID-19”
  • VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Robert Winn, M.D., in “Access & Equity: Combating Health Disparities and COVID-19 through Community Engagement”
  • KL2 Scholar Julian Zhu, Ph.D., in “Big Things in Small Packages”
  • Stephen Kates, M.D., in “Amid Crisis, Inventing Solutions”
  • Alpha “Barry” Fowler III, M.D., in “Follow up: Applying Previous Research to the Current Crisis”

And Kathy White, who serves on the COVID-19 Clinical Trials Oversight Committee, shared her experience surviving COVID-19 and participating in a clinical trial led by Abbate.

Read NEXT here.
Or download the pdf.

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VCU Wright Center joins national project to advance health research for all

The National Institutes of Health awarded the Wright Center a grant to support the center in joining a national health research project. The largest-of-its-kind database aims to enroll 1 million or more people from across the U.S. in order to advance health research for all.

“We’re proud to contribute to this historic project,” said F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., director of the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research and the VCU lead for All of Us. “As communities in Virginia work to combat the health disparities heightened by COVID-19, diverse representation in research has never felt more critical. All of Us will help find answers to some of our foundational health challenges.”

Read more at VCU Health.

Aerial photography of VCU's Monroe Park campus and downtown Richmond, VA at night time.

OB/GYN, psychology, pharmaceutics: Wright Center awards three grants to VCU faculty

The Wright Center has awarded three Endowment Fund grants to VCU faculty from departments across multiple schools at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Caitlin Martin, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the VCU School of Medicine, was awarded funding for her project titled “Feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) patient education video for the mother-infant dyad in treatment for opioid use disorder.” Martin is also a member of the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies.

Dace Svikis, Ph.D., professor of psychology in the VCU College of Humanities & Sciences, was awarded funding for her project titled “Perinatal cannabis use and breastfeeding: A feasibility study.”

Doug Sweet, Ph.D., and Sandro da Rocha, Ph.D., professors of pharmaceutics in the VCU School of Pharmacy, were awarded funding for their project titled “Delaying the onset of chemoresistance in triple negative breast cancer.”

The Wright Center Endowment Fund is awarded four times a year. In May, it’s given to a team of researchers from multiple schools to encourage cross-disciplinary human health research. And in November, February and August the deadlines are for individuals and small groups of investigators.

Funds support preliminary studies that enable researchers to develop hypotheses, collect preliminary data, and establish methods necessary for submission of highly competitive applications to extramural funding sources.

The next deadline for individual and small group Endowment Fund grants of up to $50,000 is Nov. 1.

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Pictured above from left to right: Caitlin Martin, Dace Svikis, Doug Sweet and Sandro da Rocha
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Gut bacteria and health: VCU researcher leverages Wright Center resources to establish himself as leader in the field

Across the world, many years ago, doctors would prescribe unappealing concoctions of human and animal stool a treat a number of stomach ailments. And, in the last 10 years, clinical trials have begun to confirm why.

“There’s really a factory inside our bellies,” says Jasmohan Bajaj, M.D., a gastroenterologist and liver specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Anything that we eat or drink, any medicines we take, when we get sick – the microbes are affected one way or the other. Either they are related to it, they process it, or they make us either resistant or prone to it.”

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Jasmohan Bajaj, M.D., a gastroenterologist and liver specialist at VCU Health

Bajaj is a major contributor to growing evidence that the unique collection of bacteria in our guts informs our health – sometimes in surprising ways. Fecal microbiota transplants – the newer, less unappealing version of that ancient treatment – are a big part of his research. And he’s leveraging the resources of the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research to accomplish his trials and study to become a leader in the field.

Working at a university with a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health, Bajaj has been awarded multiple grants that support his research into gut biomes and the uses of fecal transplants.

An R21 grant for 2017-18 helped Bajaj perform a randomized trial of fecal microbial transplant in patients with cirrhosis and hepatic encephalopathy.

This year he received another R21 grant to continue research into liver transplant outcomes, collaborating with a researcher another CTSA hub, the Columbia University Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. The study will assess gut microbiota in patients with liver transplants in relation to their outcomes.

And he recently submitted an R01 to develop gut microbiota as a treatment for alcohol use disorder.

Bajaj also uses facilities maintained and funded by the Wright Center for his research. The Collaborative Advanced Research Imaging facility gives him access to a research-dedicated MRI scanner, which he’s using to analyze brain function in patients with cirrhosis before and after treating them with a gut-specific antibiotic.

A prolific summer of translational results

This summer, Bajaj published four articles showing the link between gut bacteria, cirrhosis and health. Read More