Pilot Projects

The Delaware INBRE Pilot Awards offer needed assistance to early-career investigators on the path to research independence.

2019-2022 Delaware INBRE Pilot Investigators application is now closed.

The next round application will be available Spring/Summer 2021.

Pilot Projects 2019-2021

Anjana Bhat, PhD
Associate Professor, Physical Therapy
University of Delaware

Project title: A multisystem, multimodal intervention for children with ASD

Thematic area: Neuroscience

Summary: We propose to examine effects of an 8-week novel synchronous, multisystem, multimodal play intervention to facilitate social communication and motor skills of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our preliminary studies showed that practicing musical synchrony as a group led to highest levels of social attention and increase in amount of social verbalization as well as an increase in imitation accuracy and percent of interpersonal synchrony following 8 weeks of intervention compared to a sedentary play group. While we are encouraged by the positive behavioral findings, we still do not know the neural mechanisms that facilitate social communication skills when children engage in socially embedded, synchronous whole body movements.

 

Christine Charvet, PhD
Assistant Professor, Psychology
Delaware State University

Project title: Translating ages in humans and model organisms across the lifespan

Thematic area: Neuroscience

Summary: The goal of this project is to identify corresponding ages across postnatal ages in humans and model
organisms. This work is needed because scientists often use model organisms such as mice to understand basic biological processes and disorders in humans, but there is currently no resource that enables researchers to find corresponding ages across the lifespan of model organisms and humans.

 

Elise Corbin, PhD
Assistant Professor , Biomedical Engineering
University of Delaware

Project title: Mechanical Phenotypes of Sepsis-Induced Cardiomyopathy

Theme area: Neuroscience

Summary: The long-term goal of this research is to develop an in vitro model of sepsis-induced cardiomyopathy to
elucidate fundamental mechanisms of pathology and enable development of effective treatments. Sepsis is
a systemic immune response to infection that can have serious consequences including organ dysfunction and mortality. Cardiovascular dysfunction is common in sepsis though the mechanics of this cardiomyopathy is unknown. As such, no existing therapy directly targets intrinsic cardiac injury in sepsis despite extensive evidence of its prevalence, and treatment is currently limited to antimicrobial agents and
circulatory support (i.e. vasopressors) applied broadly to patients with a sepsis syndrome.

 

Catherine Fromen, PhD
Assistant professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
University of Delaware

Project title: Aged to perfection: Enhancing survival of antigen presenting cells for cancer therapies

Theme area: Cancer

Summary: Macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs) are important effector cells of the innate immune system
responsible for clearing foreign objects and bridging the innate and adaptive immunity. During lung cancer,
both cell types undergo considerable dysfunction and contribute to a protumor environment. Restoration of proper innate immune cell function may enable these cells to combat the cancer and reduce tumor burden, thus both macrophages and DCs represent significant targets for lung cancer therapies. The overall objective of this work is to 1) investigate the mechanism of NP-induced phagocyte longevity and 2) develop a substantial framework for controlling cell viability for lung cancer therapies.

 

Jennifer Goldstein, MD
Assistant Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Director of Resident Research
Christiana Care

Project title:  The impact of social determinants of health on medical decision making in diabetes care

Thematic area: Cardiovascular

Summary: Completion of this research program will be the first step in examining whether and how physicians integrate data related to SDoH into their clinical management plans. Our findings will advance precision medicine by clarifying current practice related to collection of SDoH data and whether it triggers clinical action or inertia among physicians. This will be critical to understanding whether SDoH screening could lead to meaningful clinical changes that could reduce health care disparities.

 

Jing Jin, MD
Ophthalmologist, Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery
Nemours, A.I. duPont Hospital for Children

Project title: Non-invasive monitoring of sickle cell disease progression via OCT and ERG

Thematic area: Cancer

Summary: The research proposed in this application will utilize a combination of standard and novel noninvasive diagnostic modalities to examine retinal structure and function in children with SCD. Using these techniques will improve our ability to accurately diagnose and monitor SCR in children and provide a better understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease. Through this study, we will refine our ability to predict progression, assess therapeutic efficacy, develop more effective monitoring guidelines and initiate early interventions. Correlating retinal findings with clinical data may provide insight into other vascular complications of SCD, such as cerebrovascular disease. The long-term goal of this study is to enhance early detection of SCR and develop treatment strategies to slow the progression of SCR toward proliferative retinopathy and blindness, lowering the societal burden of SCR and improving the quality of life for these patients.


Karl Milletti-Gonzalez, PhD
Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
Delaware State University

Project title: Regulation of oxidative stress by CD44 in triple negative breast cancercells from African American women

Thematic area: Cancer

Summary: The objective of the proposed study is to investigate a potential underlying molecular mechanism by which CD44 regulates the oxidative stress response via the CD44-ICD in TNBC cells from AA women. Our central hypothesis is that the involvement of CD44 in the oxidative stress response includes 1) protein-DNA interactions between the CD44-ICD and its response element (CIRE) on promoters of
NFE2L2 and KEAP1 and 2) protein-protein interactions between Runx2 and/or p53 and the CD44-ICD to regulate the expression of NFE2L2 and the Nrf2 function. This regulatory mechanism is proposed to show differences in TNBC cells from AA women compared to TNBC cells from EA women.

 

Jeffrey Mugridge, PhD
Assistant Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry
University of Delaware

Project title: Selectivity and function of RNA demethylase FTO: from structure to glioblastoma

Thematic area: Cancer

Summary:This project will use structural studies to understand how FTO recognizes m6Am modifications on the mRNA 5′ cap and biochemically dissect FTO m6A versus m6Am selectivity in vitro and in glioblastoma models. Metastable intermediates that arise during FTO-mediated demethylation will also be leveraged to develop aptamer-based probes that can directly bind and capture RNA at the site of demethylation. These tools can later be used in sequencing applications to map FTO-mediated RNA demethylation in cellular mRNA.

 

Rahul Nikam, MD
Radiologist/Assistant Professor of Radiology & Pediatrics
Nemours / A.I. duPont Hospital for Children

Project title: Magnetic Resonance Elastography in Characterization of Pediatric Gliomas

Thematic area: Neuroscience

Summary: In this project we intend to bridge the gap between the various grades and genetic subtypes of pediatric glimoa, and MRE derived viscoelastic mechanical properties. There are no studies done in pediatric brain tumor population evaluating the relationship of tumor stiffness with tumor grade, genetic alterations and proliferation index.