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Inaugural UT CORNET Cancer Conference Provides Platform of Collaboration For Cancer Researchers Across Tennessee

Researchers exchange thoughts and ideas during the poster presentations at the UT CORNET Cancer Conference.

More than 70 cancer researchers from across the state convened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Wednesday for the inaugural 2016 University of Tennessee Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) Cancer Conference.

The conference brought together cancer researchers from all campuses of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM), the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), allowing them to share research interests and catalyze new collaborative partnerships that will result in the submission of a UT CORNET Award proposal in cancer.

“This is our first UT CORNET Cancer Conference,” said Steven R. Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for Research at UTHSC. “I’m proud to say we were able to successfully bring together a large number of cancer researchers from across the state of Tennessee and give them a platform of collaboration in the hopes that they will find solutions to cancer diseases that affect so many Americans today. The UT CORNET Awards in Cancer is the first award of its kind, and will serve as a catalyst for initiating these new scientific partnerships.”

Vice Chancellor Stephen Goodman addresses participants at the conference.

Imagined by Dr. Goodman and institutional research leaders at other UT sites, the UT CORNET Awards in Cancer will provide seed money to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary, team-based cancer research, which will give rise to future extramural funding.

“The UT College of Veterinary Medicine has several clinician-scientists and bench-top researchers who are engaged in cancer research,” said College of Veterinary Medicine Dean James P. Thompson, DVM, PhD. “Creating new collaborations with others in the Health Science Center, Chattanooga, ORNL, and within UTK is undoubtedly valuable.”

Any UT faculty member who is doing cancer research (inclusive of T0 to T4) at these sites may apply for a UT CORNET Award in Cancer. To be eligible for a UT CORNET Award in Cancer, each proposal must include, at minimum, one faculty member from at least two participating institutions. Resources are available to fund up to two awards, for up to $50,000 per award, for one year.

At the Cancer Conference, attendees heard from seven speakers, all from different UT campuses, on their cancer research or on the work being done by investigators at their respective sites. A poster presentation session, featuring projects from participants, was also held.

Subhash Chauhan, PhD, professor in the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pathology in the UTHSC Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine, was one of the featured presenters. The pancreatic cancer expert, whose topic was “Development of New Therapeutic Approaches for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment,” discussed the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. He spoke of his quest to develop targeted nanomedicine as a treatment option for the disease.

Dr. Chauhan said the conference “provided an opportunity to meet and exchange collaborative ideas among different UT campuses.”

The CORNET Awards are being implemented in four phases: (1) UTHSC CORNET Awards, where nine teams from the Memphis campus were awarded more than $422,504 for new collaborative research initiatives in April 2016; (2) UT CORNET Awards, which will bring together researchers from multiple UT campuses across Tennessee; (3) USA CORNET Awards, of which the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) was UTHSC’s first partner university; and (4) Global CORNET Awards.

To date, the CORNET Awards have provided more than $472,504 in funding to new teams of researchers. Dr. Goodman hinted at his town hall address in late September that the Global CORNET Award, which the newly appointed Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Global Partnerships Stephania Cormier, PhD, is helping to establish, is in the works. The second UTHSC CORNET Awards and UTHSC/UAMS USA CORNET Awards are also in the planning phases for spring 2017.

“The goal of the day was to strengthen the aspect of research collaboration across the system,” Dr. Goodman said. “I definitely think we achieved that goal.”

To learn more about the UT CORNET Awards, please visit https://uthsc.edu/research/development/intramural-funding/documents/ut-cornet-rfa.pdf. The application deadline is February 1, 2017, with funding set to begin in April.


Editor’s Note: Amber Carter, publications coordinator in the Department of Communications and Marketing,  contributed to this article***