In September, The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) received five multi-million dollar grants and awards, totaling more than $9 million. The funding will allow SMHS faculty members Mandi Pratt-Chapman, M.A., Richard Katz, M.D., Matthew Colonnese, Ph.D., and Dominic Raj, M.D. to spend the next several years working to advance the health of millions of Americans.
The GW Cancer Institute, housed within SMHS, was awarded a cooperative agreement to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to design and implement a comprehensive technical assistance plan to support CDC-funded Comprehensive Cancer Control (CCC) programs.
With the award, the GW Cancer Institute will expand its Online Academy, develop training and resource guides, connect CCC practitioners with experts, and create easier ways to align local initiatives with national health priority indicators.
"Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we will prioritize training needs and support implementation of proven strategies to reduce the burden of cancer in this country," said Pratt-Chapman, associate director of the Institute and principal investigator for the award.
Katz, Bloedorn Professor of Cardiology at SMHS, received an award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for a three-year project to study the combined use of mobile phones and community health to enhance patient management of chronic disease.
Katz and his team will follow 200 diabetes patients with Medicaid insurance in the Washington, D.C., area for one year. One group will use the diabetes cell phone system, a second group will be assigned a community health worker, and the third group will have both.
“This new chronic care model has the potential to modernize the traditional doctor-patient relationship, improve health and reduce medical costs,” said Katz.
Colonnese, an assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at SMHS, received a grant from the National Eye Institute to study developmental origins of wakefulness in the cerebral cortex. His project will investigate how circuit properties and computational structures change in the cerebral cortex — the region of the brain responsible for cognition and perception —between the fetal and postnatal periods.
“The fetal brain appears to be incapable of processing sensory information until just before birth – we are studying the mechanism of this critical shift,” said Colonnese.
This research can help to better understand the critical developmental checkpoints that determine if an infant will develop a healthy, functional brain.
Dominic Raj, director of the division of nephrology and a professor of medicine at SMHS, was awarded two multi-million dollar grants from the National Institutes of Health. Raj will examine the role of gut microbiome on inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
For patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), traditional medications to treat cardiovascular issues have often been unsuccessful. It is believed that many of these medications do not work because of underlying chronic inflammation in these patients. Raj’s previous research showed that the cause of inflammation may be due to the release of endotoxin from bacteria. Raj believes that if he is able to modulate the gut microbiome to reduce the level of endotoxin, this will in turn reduce inflammation.
“This research is focused on finding a safe and effective treatment that reduces inflammation and prolongs survival of these patients,” said Raj.
For his first project, “Anti-inflammatory Therapy in Diabetic CKD,” Raj will work with the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Washington University to examine the effect of two anti-inflammatory therapies on slowing progression of atherosclerosis and protein-energy wasting in hemodialysis patients.
For his second project, “Gut Microbiota and Atherosclerosis in ESRD,” Raj will collaborate with the Cleveland Clinic, University of California San Diego, University of Miami and University of Utah. He will examine the effect of two novel anti-inflammatory therapies in patients with CKD.