CORNET Awards Provide $100,000 to Two New UTHSC Collaborations

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Two research teams at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) have been awarded the 2022 UTHSC Collaborative Research Network (CORNET)-Functional Genomics Award. Each team will receive $50,000 to support their novel projects.

The CORNET Awards are a competitive intramural grant program funded by the UTHSC Office of Research to promote new lines of interdisciplinary team study. The program contains several different categories of UTHSC collaborations (UTHSC colleges, UT campuses, industry, regional, national and international). This latest round of funding was for UTHSC cross-college collaborations, requiring eligible teams to include investigators from different colleges. The RFP called for projects that would “increase understanding of the functional consequences of genomic variation in human disease,” and “enhance on-campus capabilities for the use of model organisms.”

The awardees and their project titles are:

Dr. Djamel Lebeche
  • “Genetic Influence of ADIPOR1 variants on Diabetes” – Djamel Lebeche, PhD, FAHA, FACC, professor in the Department of Physiology in the College of Medicine; Ivan Gerling, PhD, professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism in the College of Medicine; and Junaith Mohamed, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic and Health Sciences in the College of Health Professions. The team aims to analyze and map how mutations of a hormone receptor (ADIPOR1) lead to diabetes, generating data that may reveal new drug targets for prevention. “Overall, the proposed studies will provide a rich resource that will link beta-cell functional defects to a particular signaling/regulatory pathway(s), and identify important new molecular drivers, and potentially, candidate therapeutic targets mediating Adiponectin receptor 1 genetic variations,” Dr. Lebeche said.
Dr. Junming Yue
  • “An ovarian cancer mouse model recapitulating human disease phenotype” – Junming Yue, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pathology in the College of Medicine; Wei, Li, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy; and Wenjing Zhang, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Genetics and Genomics in the College of Medicine. The team aims to generate a new disease model that mimics genetic alteration of ovarian cancer. “This CORNET Award will help us develop our model and test preclinical drugs for ovarian cancer therapy and generate strong preliminary data for joint grant applications in the future,” Dr. Yue said.

Proposals were required to describe how findings would be used in future external funding applications. In the nearly seven years since the awards were created by Steve Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for the Office of Research, the CORNETs have been the seed of more than $30 million in funding for new groundbreaking initiatives. “The CORNETs in Functional Genomics were suggested by UTHSC faculty in the first Operational Strategic Plan for Research,” said Dr. Goodman. “I am so pleased that we could make this important request a reality and I want to congratulate the recipients.”