Six research teams were recently announced as the 2017 awardees for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Awards. Based on the ideals of cross-disciplinary team science, the CORNET Awards provide winning groups with seed money to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary, team-based research, which will give rise to future extramural funding.
To date, the CORNET Awards have provided $920,305 in funding to support new collaborative research teams and their projects. The program was created a little over a year ago by Steven R. Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for research at UTHSC and has become increasingly popular among researchers at UTHSC and beyond.
Its popularity is simple to understand, Dr. Goodman said. “For researchers, it allows maximal creativity in exploring new ideas and collaborative relationships,” he said. “For UTHSC it creates a culture of respect for what each college and campus can bring to the research enterprise. These are really the underlying principles of the growth plan found within the UTHSC Operational Strategic Plan for Research.”
The 2017 UTHSC CORNET Award winners, who will receive a combined total of $297,801 in pilot funding, and their project titles are:
• “Development of Novel Therapies for Retinitis Pigmentosa” – Nawajes Mandal, PhD; Harry, Kochat, PhD; Ryan R. Yates, PharmD, PhD; Edward Chaum, MD, PhD
• “Identifying Chemical Modulators of the UBE3A Ubiquitin Ligase as a Therapeutic Strategy to Treat Epileptic Seizures and HPV Related Cancers” – Glen Palmer, PhD; Lawrence Reiter, PhD
• “Developing Novel Drugs to Antagonize FGF23/FGFR/-Klotho Signaling” – Darryl Quarles, MD; Ryan R. Yates, PharmD, PhD
• “Restitution of miR-205 in Prostate Cancer” – Subhash Chauhan, PhD; Yi Lu, PhD
• “Investigation of the Oral Microbiome in Pediatric Obesity and Metabolic Disease”- Joan C. Han, MD; Joseph Pierre, PhD; Yanhui Zhang, PhD; Franklin Garcia-Godoy, DDS, MS, PhD
• “Association of FADS1 Genotype with Metabolic Health and Inflammation in Children with Obesity in Relation to Dietary Intake of Omega-6 and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids” – Webb A. Smith, PhD; Joan C. Han, MD; Ryan R. Yates, PharmD, PhD
The CORNET Awards are being implemented in five phases: (1) UTHSC CORNET Awards, where 15 collaborative teams from different UTHSC colleges and campus locations have been granted funding since April 2016; (2) UT CORNET Awards, of which three teams of researchers from multiple UT campuses across the state of Tennessee were granted more than $150,000 to pursue their cancer research projects in April 2017; (3) USA CORNET Awards, of which UAMS is UTHSC’s first partner university; (4) Global CORNET Awards; and (5) UTHSC/Southern Research CORNET Award in Drug Discovery and Development, the newest CORNET opportunity to be created.
Lisa Youngentob, director of the Office of Research Development, is encouraged by the success of the CORNET Awards. She notes that there are collaborative research teams, comprised of UTHSC researchers and beyond, that would not have come together had it not been for the CORNET Awards. A number of groups have already pursued extramural funding opportunities due to their coming together through the CORNET Awards.
“Several of our funded teams have already submitted external grants based on their CORNET work,” Youngentob said. “Even teams who submitted CORNET proposals that did not get funded have developed their proposals and submitted them to external agencies. This is a great measure of success and exactly what the CORNETs were intended to do; open the door for new collaborative research teams, ultimately leading to the submission of grants to external funding agencies.”
To be eligible for a 2017 UTHSC CORNET Award, each proposal must include, at minimum, one faculty member from at least two UTHSC colleges on any UTHSC campus, and promote new lines of research. Resources are available for up to $50,000 per award for one year, and are accessible to each winning research team beginning on June 1. A symposium will be hosted at the end of that year in which the awardees will present their findings.
“The CORNET awards are meant to seed new research initiatives that will lead to better treatments and ultimately cures for diseases that impact us all,” Dr. Goodman said. “On behalf of the UTHSC administration, I congratulate all of the CORNET awardees.”