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Pharmacology Experts Receive Scholar Grants for Translational Research


The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at UTHSC is pleased to announce recipients of its first K12 Scholars grant program.

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is pleased to announce recipients of its first K12 Scholars grant program. The CTSI, a new enterprise at UT Health Science Center that transforms clinical and basic investigations into improved health care for communities, offers K12 Scholars grants to support young faculty researchers performing clinical and translational studies at UTHSC.

The grants involve a competitive process to identify top scholars with outstanding clinical research proposals that can be converted into disease treatments and advancements in public health. The CTSI’s 10-member Multidisciplinary Advisory Committee reviewed seven applications. Two researchers emerged as K12 Scholars grant recipients: Collin A. Hovinga, PharmD, and Terreia S. Jones, PharmD. Each investigator holds the position of assistant professor in the UT College of Pharmacy Department of Clinical Pharmacy.

Dr. Hovinga’s study will focus on neonatal hypoxia-induced seizures and the identification of genes related to seizure vulnerability and resistance. The genetic data will help identify new, age-appropriate targets at which novel drugs can be aimed. In addition, this research has the potential to identify genes that can predict outcomes of neonatal seizures. An appropriate mouse model will be used for the research, which has the potential to guide clinicians to more aggressive treatments for certain neonatal populations. Throughout the K12 Scholar program, Dr. Hovinga will consult with a mentor team of investigators from UT Health Science Center, as well as with other research institutions, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Jones’ research will examine how genetic make-up and environment can predict risks for secondary brain tumors in individuals taking anticancer therapy for their primary cancer. In many cases, anticancer therapies improve cancer survival rates, but some individuals are genetically at risk for treatment-induced secondary cancers. TPMT (thiopurine methyltrasferase) is a gene that deactivates thiopurine drugs — these drugs are commonly used to treat leukemia and have been associated with risks for secondary brain tumors after intake of anticancer drugs. This study will use mice with different TPMT genotypes to examine the degree to which TPMT causes brain tissue toxicity and brain tumor development after anticancer drug usage. Results will explain why secondary brain tumors can develop after these drugs are taken. This understanding could prevent devastating treatment-associated outcomes and provide insight into innovative therapeutic targets for brain tumor treatment.

“We congratulate Drs. Hovinga and Jones for their outstanding work and success in being chosen as the inaugural recipients of the prestigious K12 Scholar awards,” said Edward Chaum, MD, PhD, Plough Foundation Professor of Retinal Diseases, and director of the K12 Scholars program for the CTSI. “They represent the next generation of clinical scientists, leading the transformation of the clinical research enterprise on campus. They are the first of what we envision to be a long line of distinguished K12 Scholars.”