Pauley physicians and scientists have long sought novel solutions to improving cardiovascular health. Now, VCU Health is helping to fund exciting early-stage research by its faculty through the Pauley Pilot Research Grants Program.
“Despite the global realization that cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, efforts to increase research funding to improve awareness, clinical outcomes and quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease continue to fall short of meeting the demands,” said Pauley researcher Dr. Fadi Salloum. “With continuous budget cuts to major funding sources, including the NIH, promising new and mid-career investigators, in particular, are facing major challenges to secure grant funding for innovative research.”
The pilot grants provide funding for successful grants that meet three criteria: an innovative idea to improve cardiovascular health, a project that is feasible in 12-18 months and the potential to attract additional funding.
“We are interested in this research which advances knowledge in fighting heart disease and prolonging life.”
—Roger Boevé, who with his wife, Anne, helped fund the pilot grant program
The first grant applications were due on Sept. 19 (in honor of the birthday of heart center benefactor Stan Pauley). An internal review committee led by Dr. Antonio Abbate, assembled an external review committee composed of alumni and retired faculty of the heart center as well as international experts to carefully review the applications.
In November, the following four grants were awarded a total of $112,229:
• Integrated in vitro-in silico-in vivo modeling of engineered tissue vascular growth, development and function, by Dr. Stefano Toldo and Dr. Joao Soares (School of Engineering), $37,229.
• Unsaturated Fatty Acids-Enriched-diet to Improve Metabolic Flexibility and Glucose Tolerance in Obese Patients, by Dr. Salvatore Carbone, and Dr. Francesco Celi (Division of Endocrinology), $25,000.
• Nutraceutical therapy for alleviating cardiotoxicity of cancer chemotherapy, by Dr. Lei Xi, $25,000.
• Optimal preservation condition for the donation after cardiac death heart (transplant), by Dr. Mohamed Quader and Dr. Stefano Toldo, $25,000.
“The four projects are diverse in nature, ranging from a partnership between tissue engineering and small animal surgery to enhance coronary artery bypass graft surgery, dietary modifications to enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, nutraceutical therapy to alleviate cardiotoxicity of chemotherapy and attempts to increase the pool of potential donor hearts for transplantation,” said Salloum, who served on the internal review committee.
The projects began Dec.1. The grants will allow the investigators to pursue their ideas and possibly glean important data that will make them more competitive for future research funding.
“Excellent ideas submitted to the NIH and other federal funding organizations fall short of funding if not substantiated with strong feasibility and preliminary data,” explained Salloum.
Annual fund donations to Pauley were critical to the funding of the new program. An additional $115,000 has also been donated to the program by several individuals.
“The generosity of our donors is greatly appreciated,” said Salloum. “Numerous meritorious grant proposals often go unfunded due to the lack of sufficient funds.”
In the future, “we hope to further grow this program. Our goal would be to make sure that every meritorious proposal from a Pauley researcher gets funded by a pilot grant.”
L to R: Dr. Salvatore Carbone, Dr. Lei Xi, Dr. Mohammed Quader and Dr. Stefano Toldo spoke to guests and shared displays about their Pauley pilot research grants at the AHA Heart Ball kickoff reception, held on Nov. 30.