Petit Institute awards seed grants to three interdisciplinary teams

$50,000 seed grants awarded to support early-stage innovative biotechnology research

The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (Petit Institute) awarded $50,000 to three interdisciplinary teams under its Petit Bioengineering and Bioscience Collaborative Seed Grant program, which was created to support early-stage innovative biotechnology research. Proposals were submitted by teams comprised of two Petit Institute faculty with appointments in different academic colleges.

“The overall quality of the twelve collaborative proposals submitted this year was exceptionally high and we are very excited about the three projects selected for funding. In each case, we are bringing together a scientist and an engineer who have not previously worked together,” said Robert E. Guldberg, PhD, executive director of the Petit Institute.

One team, Andrew Lyon, PhD, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, proposed a project which aims to reduce hemorrhage in trauma-related injuries by developing a new targeted drug-delivery system that uses the patient's own platelets as “nanomachines” to trigger controlled release of drugs and induce clotting at sites of active bleeding. This new “smart” drug delivery system has the potential to overcome the limited specificity and efficacy of current nanoparticle-based systems and could lead to much needed novel treatment strategies for acute bleeding.

Brandon Dixon, PhD, assistant professor from George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Fredrik Vannberg, PhD, assistant professor from the School of Biology are partnering on a project entitled, “Non-invasive NIR imaging towards establishing a role for lymphatic trafficking of exosomes in vivo.” Although exosomes, vesicles 40-100 nanometers in size, were discovered over a decade ago their functional role in vivo is still uncertain. The hope of this project is to combine near-infrared imaging tools developed in the Dixon lab with exosomal biology and transcriptional regulation research from the Vannberg lab to establish lymphatic transport of exosomes as a universal mechanism to promote communication at a distance between cells outside of the lymph node with those in the node.

In addition, Lena Ting, PhD, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Randy Trumbower, PT, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy at Emory and the School of Applied Physiology at Georgia Tech, will explore a non-invasive approach to improving motor recovery after incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) using a novel breathing intervention. Combining Ting’s expertise in neuromechanics of movement with Trumbower’s expertise in spinal cord injury rehabilitation, they will use state-of-the-art computational methods to test whether acute intermittent hypoxia, or breathing low oxygen levels, induces neural plasticity in the spinal cord, altering muscle coordination in a manner that improves walking function in persons with incomplete SCI.

Funding for the new seed grants comes chiefly from the Petit Institute's endowment as well as contributions from the College of Sciences and the College of Engineering. Each team will receive $50,000 a year for two years; however, the second year of funding will be contingent on submission of an external collaborative grant proposal.

“This initiative embraces the Petit Institute’s mission, funding cutting-edge research at the interface of bioengineering and the biosciences,” Guldberg added. “We look forward to seeing the progress made by these teams as they establish preliminary results to apply for large external grant proposals.”

Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience
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