Georgetown University Medical Center Receives More than $28 Million in Grants From ARRA

Posted in News Release

Washington, D.C.Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) has received millions in research awards made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). To date, 35 scientists and physicians representing a diverse cross-section of biomedical research at GUMC have received $28.9 million in stimulus funding. The ARRA funding program commenced in 2009 and final grants were awarded in September 2010. In addition to funding important laboratory research, ARRA grants have allowed researchers to support, new full and part time jobs, many of which are permanent.

“These funds represent a rare opportunity in support of the GUMC research mission,” says the GUMC’s Dean for Research Robert Clarke, PhD, ScD. “In some cases, ARRA funding has allowed junior researchers, who face tough funding challenges, to expand their research and explore new ideas or understudied areas. ARRA funding also has supported upgrades in equipment and facilities. These represent significant opportunities especially as biomedical funding levels continue to drop.”

The two-year ARRA grants were awarded through agencies including the National Science Foundation and institutions within the National Institutes of Health including the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. In addition to stimulating research projects, ARRA grants also provide funding for facility upgrades and equipment.

Some examples of ARRA funding received by GUMC researchers include:
Gerard Ahern, PhD, an associate professor in the department of pharmacology, received $207,000 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, to study novel mechanisms by which sensory neurons detect noxious stimuli. The ability to detect noxious stimuli is critical to survival, but can also be the source of unwanted pain. Deciphering biologic neural pathways promises the potential for improved treatment of pain-the most frequently cited health-care concern.

Rebecca Riggins, PhD, is an assistant professor at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at GUMC, received $153,000 to study diet-induced obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes among women in the United States. Her grant will allow her to study how genetic and environmental factors including Bisphenol A (BPA) exposure affect susceptibility to mammary tumorigenesis in response to diet-induced obesity and its associated co-morbidities like insulin resistance.

Josef Rauschecker, PhD, a professor in the department of neuroscience, received nearly $675,000 to study tinnitus, a mostly whistling, buzzing, or hissing phantom sound. About 15 percent of the adult population, and about 75 percent of all patients with hearing loss experience tinnitus. It can cause severe suffering, and to date, no reliable cure has been found. The causes of tinnitus are still poorly understood, but Rauschecker’s grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders will allow him to take research in a new research direction.

Additionally, Rauschecker has received $684,000 from the National Eye Institute to study the physiological mechanisms underlying brain and cognitive plasticity in blindness to help to develop more adequate rehabilitation strategies and assistive devices for the blind, such as visual prostheses or sensory substitution devices.

Jeffrey A. Toretsky, MD, a pediatric oncologist and researcher at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at GUMC, received a $4.37 million grant award from the National Cancer Institute to advance a recent scientific laboratory discovery into a new treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma. The grant will help fund preclinical toxicology studies of a new agent identified by Toretsky and his team – a critical step in drug development that usually is stalled for years because of cost.

Mary Young, MD, principal investigator for the Washington Metropolitan Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), was awarded $1,694,000 in supplemental ARRA funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The WIHS consortium has enrolled and retained a representative cohort of HIV infected and HIV uninfected women since 1993 with the purpose of investigating the consequences of HIV infection and its treatment. Although significant progress has been made in both the understanding and treatment of HIV, curative therapy is still not available and the chronically administered complex therapies used to treat HIV are not always successful. Treatment with highly active anti-retrovirals appears to be associated with a wide range of adverse effects and the impact of other co-pathogens such as HPV and HCV has yet to be fully elucidated.

Additionally, the early cohort of infected women is aging, and the effects of age and changes in sex steroids both on the long term outcomes of HIV, on neurocognition and the effects of anti-retroviral treatment needs investigation. These ARRA supplements have been awarded to foster collaborative projects with other researchers at Georgetown including the Division of Nephrology, the Department of Family Medicine and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

To read more about these and other GUMC research projects funded by ARRA grants, click on the NIH’s Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool and the National Science Foundation’s website. The NIH website has posted three video stories about GUMC researchers who have received ARRA funding.

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO). In fiscal year 2009-2010, GUMC accounted for 79 percent of Georgetown University’s extramural research funding.