2019 Precision Health Scholars announced

June 24, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News

Precision Health at the University of Michigan has selected nine recipients for its 2019 Scholars Awards. These grants of up to $80,000 each support the innovative projects of early-career researchers.

For its second annual Scholars Awards competition, Precision Health recognized the work of researchers in biomedical engineering, biostatistics, cardiology, dermatology, computational medicine and bioinformatics, urologic oncology, and mechanical engineering.

The 2019 Scholars Awards recipients are: Lauren Beesley, Sarah Gagliano Taliun, Jessica Golbus, Alyse Krausz, Shariq Mohammed, Matthew Patrick, Yujing Song, Jeffrey Tosoian and Ziwen Zhu.

Their work (view a complete list of awardees’ topics) touches on therapeutic areas such as traumatic brain injury, type 2 diabetes, and non-small cell lung cancer; issues such as selection bias; and tools including polygenic risk scores, integrative decision modeling and digital applications.

Following are examples of the projects the Scholars Awards will fund.

Yujing Song, a graduate student research assistant in mechanical engineering, will use his award in applying single-molecule counting to screening for cytokine release syndrome, an inflammatory syndrome resulting from some cancer immunotherapies. Song’s mentor, Katsuo Kurabayshi, Ph.D., said: “This highly multidisciplinary engineering/medicine research applies a novel single-molecule protein counting platform to enable massively parallel rapid measurements of a large number of circulating blood biomarkers in critically ill patients. The obtained data will provide critical information for precisely predicting the early onset and trajectory of the time-sensitive severe immune disorder that often follows emerging cancer immunotherapy involving chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell infusion. The technology will be ready for future clinical trials aiming to develop precision medicine strategies for intervening life-threatening illnesses.”

Shariq Mohammed, a research fellow in computational medicine and bioinformatics, will use models combining both imaging and genotypic data to study time-to-recurrence for gliomas.

“We aim to integrate genetic susceptibility with tumor-imaging characteristics to determine time-to-recurrence in glioma patients,” said Shariq. “Gliomas are tumors that start in the glial cells of the brain or the spine and compose about 30% of all brain and central nervous system tumors, and 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors. We will build statistical models to predict post-treatment time-to-recurrence, an invaluable task which will not only guide physicians in making informed personalized treatment strategies but also shed light on the biological mechanisms underlying disease progression and outcomes. We aim to develop advanced analytic tools by leveraging Precision Health datasets to enable precision discovery, and potentially precision treatment. This project will involve collaboration with experts in neuroradiology, bioinformatics and biostatistics.”

Biomedical engineering graduate student research assistant Alyse Krausz is focusing on traumatic brain injury diagnosis and prognosis.

Her mentor, Mark Burns, Ph.D., said, “Traumatic brain injury affects so many people, both young and old. With this [Scholars Award], and funding from the Massey Foundation, we hope to make it easier for physicians to help each individual patient based on their precise condition.”

Krausz stressed the importance of working directly with physicians: “Our collaboration with Frederick Korley, M.D., Ph.D. [assistant professor of emergency medicine], is integral to ensuring that our device addresses current clinical needs and is flexible enough to incorporate additional protein markers of traumatic brain injury as they are discovered and validated.”

The important research undertaken by all of the 2019 Scholars Awardees promises to advance Precision Health’s goal of promoting multidisciplinary collaboration across the university.

RELATED STORIES