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Medical students and faculty helping with city’s COVID-19 vaccination effort

Medical students and faculty helping with city’s COVID-19 vaccination effort

Members of UofL COVID-19 vaccination team

Medical, nursing and public health students and faculty have joined to assist in mass vaccinations against COVID-19 at the on-going Broadbent Arena drive-thru event on the grounds of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.

Some UofL faculty have served on the Mayor’s task force for the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness project. Other faculty and students are helping with check-in and screenings, administering vaccines, assisting with volunteer supervision and training, and observing individuals post-vaccine toensure they have no adverse reactions.

“I’m helping because I have a commitment to service,” said Master’s Entry into Professional Nursing student Matt Livers. “I believe we have an opportunity to turn the tide on this pandemic and I would much rather be doing something than waiting for something to happen.”

Livers says this experience will help him gain extra experience in giving vaccines, along with serving as a resource for those who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Educating the public, he says, is key to community acceptance and willingness to become vaccinated.

This isn’t the first time nursing and other health professions students and faculty have provided the manpower for a drive-thru vaccination clinic in Louisville. In 2009, thousands of doses of the H1N1 “swine” flu vaccine were administered by UofL faculty and students at Cardinal Stadium.

Health professions students and faculty will help staff the COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru event through February, or as long as the city’s health department continues the effort. ­­­The health department’s mass vaccination site is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is offering the Moderna vaccine by appointment only. It is first focused on the Tier 1a group, as mandated by the federal government. Frequently asked questions and answers about the mass vaccination site can be found here.

UofL’s medical students expand smart glasses virtual shadowing program

UofL’s medical students expand smart glasses virtual shadowing program

Lekha Devara and Briana Coleman, second-year medical students, wearing smart glasses

Second-year medical students Lekha Devara and Briana Coleman are working to expand a smart glasses virtual shadowing program in the School of Medicine. In this Q & A they talk about how it began, what they learned and hopes for expansion of the program.

How did you get involved with shadowing via smart glasses?

Lekha: Dr. Jeff Baker of the Emergency Department at the University of Louisville Hospital offered virtual shadowing sessions for students back in May when the quarantine period first started. We participated in one of those sessions and were amazed by how realistic the shadowing experience was, and at times we were able to see procedures and interactions between doctors and patients that are easy to miss when shadowing in person. Briana and I were talking about our individual experiences with virtual shadowing and brainstormed the possibility of making smart glasses use more accessible to students and faculty. With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and how medical education would be changed, we wanted to explore if smart glasses could be a potential innovative solution to bridging the gap between pre-clinical students and actual healthcare, since we have primarily used a virtual curriculum. With the help of various faculty members and support from the University, we were able to get funding to purchase three new pairs of glasses and work to develop a user-friendly protocol that could be widely distributed.

What facility were you in virtually?

Lekha: Our virtual shadowing experience was with the Emergency Department at the University of Louisville Hospital, but our program is available to any medical specialty that is interested in using them. We recently opened up the glasses program to all students and faculty and we hope to see more virtual shadowing sessions scheduled in the spring semester!

Who worked with you to launch the expansion?

Lekha: We worked with Dr. Jeff Baker, who served as our clinical expert, Tony Simms and Kent Gardner, who helped us integrate the program at the medical school, the ULH legal team, and Julia Onnembo, who helped us get the funding for the glasses.

Were you able to interact with the patients?

Lekha: Since the prototypical sessions were in the ED, it was difficult to directly interact with patients due to the fast-pace and conditions of the patients. However, we were able to see and hear everything the glasses-wearer was seeing, saying, and doing. It was an up-close view of how natural doctor-patient interactions work.

What was the experience like and what did you learn?

Briana: The amount of patient interactions that I was able to see during my two-hour virtual shadowing session was comparable to the number I would have seen in the ER in an eight-hour shadowing session. Dr. Baker and the ED residents have become very streamlined with the process and are able to provide students with a multitude of cases, ranging from the extremely emergent cases that one may encounter only a few time in their practice, to an array of everyday ER patients that medical students must be prepared to interact with in their daily lives as clinical students. It’s truly a great way for pre-clinical students to immerse themselves in a specialty they may be interested in.

COVID-19 has changed everything, including how education is delivered. Would you have been able to learn these particular clinical aspects had it not been for this experience?

Lekha: I don’t think we would have been as keen to develop the smart glasses program or be as inclined to participate in the initial sessions had it not been for COVID-19. The switch to virtual schooling and lack of in-person clinical experiences were driving factors in seeking other ways to enhance our medical education. Moreover, the experience of shadowing through the glasses allows students to get a first-person perspective of a practicing physician which is a priceless experience.

Do you know if other medical schools have offered this unique opportunity?

Lekha: We haven’t seen any other medical schools develop a smart glasses program like ours. This has given us the unique opportunity to apply this technology to a field that is unfamiliar to it. We’ve had the opportunity to navigate issues that have arisen along the way, and worked with professionals in various fields that we likely would not have interacted with on any other project we may be involved in.

How will smart glasses change the medical field?

Briana: The utility of smart glasses in medicine is only dependent on the imagination of those using the glasses. From bringing specialist services to rural areas, to educating hundreds of learners on an intricate procedure in real time, the possibilities of smart glasses use in medicine are endless. As medical professionals, we constantly take in updated information on how to best provide for our patients, but oftentimes, the limit of us applying that information is a geographical barrier or a communications issue. These problems are easily solved through the use of smart glasses. This technology is capable of helping us provide the best care to an even greater number of patients, a goal in which we can all be proud.

Why did you choose the medical profession?

Briana: I always loved science classes, but from a young age I knew I wanted to have a career that allowed me to challenge myself each day to think critically through different problems. Though it’s a cliché saying, there is an art to medicine. The volumes of information that we must learn in our many years of training must be applied in unique ways to each patient’s specific circumstance. That’s what I found to be the most interesting about medicine, and that’s what keeps me encouraged to try my hardest each day to train for my dream job.

Lekha: Much like Briana, the challenge of medicine is what initially drew me to the profession. Medicine is ever-changing and unique, allowing it to be just as beautiful as it is difficult. Another big reason for me was people. I find comfort in knowing that I may be able to help make someone’s life better. These are my driving forces to succeed in this career path.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Lekha: We spent a lot of time dedicated to this project because we truly believe smart glasses could open a plethora of doors in medical education. Even beyond the age of COVID-19, smart glasses have the ability to offer a new insight in medicine and be an avenue for students to view a physician in action from a first-person perspective. We hope that as the word gets around, more and more people will be inclined to give smart glasses a chance to see how they can progress their medical practice and education. We would like to thank everyone that has helped us make our idea a reality.

Read the UofL News story about the program expansion.

 

Dec. 17, 2021

Jennifer Toyoda and Aaron Whitt receive top research poster presentation awards at 2020 annual meeting of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program

Jennifer Toyoda and Aaron Whitt received top research poster presentation awards at 2020 annual meeting of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.  Both are PhD candidates in the pharmacology and toxicology program supported by predoctoral fellowships on the NIEHS T32 training grant in environmental health sciences.  Jennifer is pursuing her PhD dissertation in the laboratory of Dr. John Wise, Sr.  Aaron is pursuing his PhD dissertation in the laboratory of Dr. Chi Li.

Jennifer Toyoda research presentation:  Hexavalent chromium decreases securin expression and increases separase substrate cleavage in human lung cells

Aaron Whitt research presentation:  Exploring the role of paraoxonase 2 in non-small cell lung carcinoma 

Jamie Young awarded Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies at 2020 UofL commencement

  • The Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies honors a former dean of the Graduate School and is presented to an    outstanding doctoral degree recipient who has demonstrated excellence in both scholarship and leadership within the discipline, and  has  made significant contributions to teaching and/or service.  Jamie Young is  the recipient of this year’s Stevenson award and as such, served as the Graduate School’s outstanding student and delivered a speech for the Hooding and Commencement ceremonies.

Jamie Young earned a Master’s degree with a Dean’s Citation from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of   Louisville and Bachelors degree (cum laude), from the University of Maine at Farmington. Jamie earned her Master’s degree with her   work on developing a model to study the effects whole life exposers to environmental contaminants (arsenic and cadmium) on the   development of adult diseases. Her doctoral work continued under the mentorship of Dr. Lu Cai and focused on how cadmium   exacerbates high fat diet induced liver disease and the potential therapeutic role of dietary zinc. During her tenure as a doctoral student   in the Pharmacology and Toxicology program she served as the student representative for the Ohio Valley Society of Toxicology, and is the most recent recipient of the K.C. Huang Outstanding Graduate Student award.

Jamie has been a highly successful graduate student earning a stellar grade point average and achieving much research success. Currently, she has published 12 journal articles, including four as first author along with 40 abstracts with 24 as first author. Jamie has presented 10 seminars including several at international conferences and as an invited speaker at international universities. She has earned grant support; earning a prestigious fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a prestigious T32 fellowship from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Beyond the academic and research success, Jamie provides exceptional teaching and service to her field. The Pharmacology and Toxicology program at the University of Louisville  does not require teaching, Jamie seized the available opportunities teaching in the Department’s Dental Hygiene Pharmacology course and providing peer-to-peer mentoring whenever possible.

For service opportunities, Jamie is active in a number of professional societies. For the Society of Toxicology, the biggest and preeminent Toxicology society in the world, she served as the student representative to the Metals Specialty Section, the Chair for the society’s Graduate Student Leadership Committee programming sub-committee, and the society’s Graduate Student Leadership Committee Chair. Her leadership efforts in these roles led to follow-on service opportunities in student run efforts in the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society and NIEHS’s Superfund Research Program Conference. Jamie has also extensively provided service by volunteering to serve as a field research assistant for numerous expeditions with the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology, Ocean Alliance, the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Jamie has not had an easy path to her extraordinary success being the first in her family to earn an undergraduate degree and pressed on to earn a Masters and soon a doctoral degree overcoming challenges and interruptions. Jamie is committed to excellence in research, service and teaching in her pursuit to combat global challenges in environmental health and disease.

Following graduation, Jamie will continue pursuing a career as an independent researcher and plans to apply for a NIH Director's Early Independence Award (DP5 mechanism) and earn a subsequent faculty position (hopefully at the University of Louisville). 

Tyler Gripshover presents research at annual meeting of the Superfund Research Program

Tyler Gripshover, a pharmacology and toxicology PhD student in the UofL Superfund Research Program provides an invited presentation at this week's annual meeting of the Superfund Research Program.

The title of Tyler's presentation is “Volatile organic compound exposures are positively associated with liver apoptosis in a residential cohort”.  Tyler is conducting his dissertation research in the laboratory of Matthew Cave MD.

PHTX

UofL innovator known for drug discovery inducted into National Academy of Inventors

Trent is the seventh from UofL to achieve the recognition
UofL innovator known for drug discovery inducted into National Academy of Inventors

John Trent, Ph.D.

John Trent, Ph.D., a University of Louisville researcher and innovator known for harnessing the power of thousands of computers to discover drugs that could fight everything from cancer to coronavirus, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Fellows are selected for their “spirit of innovation” in university research, helping to generate ground-breaking inventions that have a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

Trent is the only 2020 fellow from the state of Kentucky and the seventh from UofL. The 2020 Fellow class of 175 inventors represents 115 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide.

"It’s certainly an honor and I think it’s a testament to the drug discovery program we’ve built at the Brown Cancer Center and UofL through many collaborations and partnerships,” said Trent, a professor of medicine and the Wendell Cherry Endowed Chair in Cancer Translational Research. “The benefits of UofL are the support we’ve had for taking creative activities through intellectual property protection to the commercialization grant programs.”

As deputy director of basic and translational research at the UofL Health - Brown Cancer Center, Trent’s Molecular Modeling Facility uses computer predictions to understand and virtually test how drug and disease molecules might interact before real-world testing in the lab.

Trent also runs the UofL partnership with Dataseam, a company that created a grid that uses the processing power of thousands of computers in schools across Kentucky that Trent uses to screen potential drugs and compounds against cancer targets and, most recently, SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. The DataseamGrid has the capability to screen millions of potential compounds against molecular targets in only a few days.

Trent holds more than 50 patents, 24 of which are U.S., and numerous licenses and option agreements with potential commercial partners. Among other accolades, he received the Apple Science Innovator Award and the 2019 EPIC Innovator Career Impact Award, the latter awarded through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center.

“We’re very proud of John, and all his work to create innovations that have the power to advance our health,” said Kevin Gardner, Ph.D., UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “The fact that John and other UofL researchers before him have received this honor, the highest for academic inventors, shows our university’s commitment and leadership in research, invention and developing technologies that change and improve the way we work and live.”

Previous Fellows from UofL include Suzanne Ildstad and Kevin Walsh (2014), William Pierce (2015), Paula Bates (2016), Robert S. Keynton (2017) and Ayman El Baz (2019).

Trent’s induction, paired with Bates’ four years earlier, also makes the two of them one of only a handful of married couples to be named fellows. The duo also frequently works together, including developing the aptamer that would become the basis for innovative technologies since applied to fight cancer and novel coronavirus.

The 2020 NAI Fellow class collectively holds more than 4,700 issued U.S. patents.

Among the class are 24 recipients of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine honors, six recipients of American Academy of Arts & Sciences honors and two Nobel Laureates, as well as other honors and distinctions. The complete list of 2020 NAI Fellows is available here.

 

Dec. 14, 2020

Professor Chris States awarded $6.5M from NIEHS to establish Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences

The Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences (CIEHS) is funded by a very prestigious P30 center grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.  Christopher States, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology serves as Director and John Wise Sr., PhD, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology serves as Deputy Director.  

The long-term objective of the UofL CIEHS is to build a framework to integrate the interactions of pollutants and life style factors in human health and disease, as modified by life stage and gender. We will achieve this long-term objective by accomplishing the following specific aims.

1. Promote interdisciplinary collaborative research in current and new areas of environmental health research.
Opportunities for collaboration will be promoted through our educational programs and our Pilot Project Program (PPP).

2. Translate basic research findings.
Our Integrated Health Science Facility Core (IHSFC) will connect basic science investigators with clinical researchers and the UofL Clinical Trials Unit to assist in translation of basic research findings.

3. Recruit new and established investigators to environmental health science research.
Our Career Development Program will recruit and mentor new investigators in environmental health research. Our PPP will offer grants to recruit established investigators with unique skill sets to collaborate with CIEHS members.

4. Promote community engagement and community-based research.
Our Community Engagement Core will provide programs in the Louisville Regional Community to educate health care providers and community members (including youth groups) in environmental health issues and CIEHS investigators in community-based research, and will connect community stakeholders with CIEHS investigators to apply for pilot funding to perform ‘citizen science’ projects.

Information about CIEHS is available at https://louisville.edu/ciehs.

Drs. Ken Palmer and Joshua Fuqua awarded $8.5M from Department of Defense to develop a nasal spray to prevent serious respiratory infections such as COVID-19

The University of Louisville has received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a nasal spray to prevent serious viral respiratory infections such as COVID-19 using Q-Griffithsin, a drug compound developed and co-owned by UofL.

The one-year project, funded through an $8.5 million agreement from the DoD, includes developing the spray, testing the formulation in lab studies and conducting a Phase I clinical trial. The researchers expect the spray to be used to protect frontline health care workers, military personnel living in close quarters and other essential workers, as well as vulnerable people for whom a vaccine might not be fully protective.

Kenneth E. Palmer, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Director of the  Center for Predictive Medicine and the Helmsley Charitable Trust Endowed Chair in Plant-based Pharmaceutical Research is leading the project and Joshua L. Fuqua, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology is managing the project.  

Further information is available at http://www.uoflnews.com/releases/uofl-to-develop-and-test-nasal-spray-to-prevent-covid-19/.

UofL to develop and test nasal spray to prevent COVID-19

U.S. Department of Defense provides $8.5 million for formulation and Phase I clinical trial using UofL-developed Q-Griffithsin compound
UofL to develop and test nasal spray to prevent COVID-19

Nasal spray

The University of Louisville has received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a nasal spray to prevent serious viral respiratory infections such as COVID-19 using Q-Griffithsin, a drug compound developed and co-owned by UofL.

The one-year project, funded through an $8.5 million agreement from the DoD, includes developing the spray, testing the formulation in lab studies and conducting a Phase I clinical trial. The researchers expect the spray to be used to protect frontline health care workers, military personnel living in close quarters and other essential workers, as well as vulnerable people for whom a vaccine might not be fully protective.

Kenneth E. Palmer, Ph.D., director of the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Helmsley Charitable Trust Endowed Chair in Plant-based Pharmaceutical Research at UofL, is leading the project, known as PREVENT-CoV.

“The idea is to deliver the antiviral agent to the location in the body where the virus is known to replicate first, the upper respiratory tract,” Palmer said.

Q-Griffithsin (Q-GRFT), an analog of the biologic griffithsin, discovered at the Center for Cancer Research, NCI and co-owned by UofL, the University of Pittsburgh and the National Cancer Institute, is a potent anti-viral protein that acts against multiple coronaviruses, including MERS, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, as well as pandemic threat viruses such as Nipah virus. An application using Q-GRFT to prevent HIV infection already is in Phase I clinical trial.

“The relatively short timeframe for this project is possible due to the fact that we have a supply of Q-GRFT on hand and that it already has undergone testing related to the HIV preventative,” said Joshua Fuqua, Ph.D., in the UofL Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology who will manage the program.

The UofL researchers will develop and manufacture the nasal spray, to be used once a day to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, in collaboration with Lisa Rohan, Ph.D., and Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Research Institute, Barry O’Keefe, Ph.D., at the National Cancer Institute and Donald Lo, Ph.D., and colleagues at the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The team first will formulate the compound for use as a nasal spray, then will test the newly developed spray in the lab using human samples and tissues and in animal models.

Following the preclinical testing of the spray, the UofL Clinical Trials Unit will conduct a Phase I clinical trial, directed by Gerald Dryden, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, and Kevin Potts, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery and Communicative Disorders, to test the newly developed spray in healthy volunteers in a controlled, randomized study to evaluate its safety, ease of use, drug activity and tolerability.

“We are pleased to work with the University of Louisville and hopeful about the prospect of developing Q-Griffithsin to combat COVID-19,” said Douglas Bryce, the DoD’s joint program executive officer for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense. “Repurposing a medical countermeasure that is already in development as a stopgap to potentially provide pre-exposure prophylaxis is a critical component of an effective layered defense. Pursuing innovative solutions with our partners supports both our service members and the American public as we continue our fight against this and other diseases."

With positive results, the researchers would seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for deployment of the formulation, a step that the researchers anticipate could happen as soon as the end of 2021.

“This is a great example of how UofL researchers pivoted rapidly to address this deadly pandemic and speaks volumes about why research matters to society,” said Kevin Gardner, Ph.D., executive vice president of research and innovation at UofL. “Our state-of-the-art research infrastructure at the Center for Predictive Medicine allowed rapid efficacy testing for this and many other prospective anti-viral therapies that have real potential to prevent COVID-19 infection, reduce its transmission and treat its effects.”

 

Dec. 9, 2020

M&I Faculty Receive NIH Grants

M&I Assistant Professor, Dr. Kevin Sokoloski, was awarded a National Institute of Health R01 Grant titled "Comprehensive Definition of the Critical Role(s) of the Alphaviral Noncapped Genomic RNAs to Infection and Pathogenesis." The grant, funded by the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is budgeted until 2025 for a total amount of 1.9 million dollars.  

M&I Associate Professor, Dr. Bing Li, renewed his National Institute of Health R01 Grant titled "E-FABP mediates n-3 fatty acid-induced tumor prevention through epigenetic control of immune cell differentiation and function." The grant, funded by the National Cancer Institute is budgeted until 2025 for a total amount of 1.8 million dollars.  

M&I Professor and Vice Chair, Dr. Haribabu Bodduluri, was awarded a National Institute of Health grant titled "Functional Microbiomics, Inflammation and Pathogenicity." The grant, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, is budgeted into 2021 for a total amount of $345,000.


Dr Kevin Sokoloski     Bing Li     Dr. Bodduluri

(From left to right: Dr. Kevin Sokoloski, Dr. Bing Li, Dr. Haribabu Bodduluri) 

UofL residents roll to another solid fellowship match

Future residency graduates persevere despite the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic
UofL residents roll to another solid fellowship match

Upcoming graduates of the UofL Internal Medicine Residency Program learned their future destinations in the recent 2020 fellowship match

In a year unlike any other, a long list of soon-to-be graduated residents from the University of Louisville Internal Medicine Residency Program and Med-Peds Residency Program learned their future destinations in the recent fellowship match.

Three of those will continue their education at UofL.

"The fellowship match this year was a test of the ingenuity and flexibility of all involved, as it was converted to an entirely virtual process," Dr. Jennifer Koch, director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program said. "I am so excited to see our residents succeed in obtaining fellowships at prestigious institutions across the country! They will be (hopefully!) the only residency class we have who matched into fellowships during a global pandemic!"

Those from The University of Louisville who matched for 2021 include:

 

Doctor
Specialty
Institution

Agastaya Belur

Sundus Bhatti

Thomas Bierman

James Bradley

Wendy Cai

Scott Diamond

Sara Ellingwood

Khushboo Gala

Christina Giles

Yiran Jiang

Samuel Reynolds

William Tyler Smith

Bree Trischan

Cardiology

Allergy

Gastroenterology

Pumonary/Critical Care

Gastroenterology

Gastroenterology

Allergy

Gastroenterology

Pediactric Sleep Medicine

Rheumatology

Oncology/Hematology

Pulmonary/Critical Care

Palliative Medicine

University of Louisville

University of Texas Medical Branch

University of Missouri-Kansas City

University of Louisville

Methodist Health System, Dallas, TX

Valley Hospital Medical Center, Las Vegas, NV

University of Michigan

Mayo Clinic

University of Colorado Denver

Medical College of Wisconsin

University of Michigan

Mayo Clinic

University of Louisville

UofL researcher uses fruit for less toxic drug delivery

Suite of technologies now has commercial partner to bring them to market
UofL researcher uses fruit for less toxic drug delivery

Huang-Ge Zhang, Ph.D.

University of Louisville researchers have found a less toxic way to deliver medicines by using the natural lipids in plants, particularly grapefruit and ginger.

The resulting intellectual property portfolio consisting of 12 patent families, invented by Huang-Ge Zhang, Ph.D., of UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has been licensed to Boston-based Senda BioSciences, a Flagship Pioneering company. UofL’s technology is part of Senda’s efforts to develop novel drug delivery platforms to solve the challenges of transferring therapeutics across biological barriers and throughout the body.

The UofL technologies use exosomes, which are very small fragments of living, edible plant cells, to transport various therapeutic agents, including anti-cancer drugs, DNA/RNA and proteins such as antibodies. These exosomes help ensure the drug is properly absorbed by the body. 

Current practice is to use nanoparticles or liposomes made from synthetic materials to deliver these medicines. However, these materials are more expensive to produce in large quantities and can cause adverse health effects, such as cell toxicity and chronic inflammation. The UofL edible-plant-derived exosomes don’t have these problems, Zhang said, since they come from natural, readily available sources. More importantly, these exosomes have anti-inflammatory effects. 

“Our exosomes come from fruit or other edible plants — something good for you, that you buy in the grocery store and that humans have eaten forever,” said Zhang, an endowed professor of microbiology and immunology who holds the Founders Chair in Cancer Research. “And, they don't require synthetic formulation.”

The exosomes made from fruit lipids also can be modified to target and deliver medications to specific cell types within the body — like homing missiles, Zhang said. For example, the exosomes could be engineered to deliver a cancer therapeutic directly to cancer cells.

Zhang originally experimented with other fruits, including tomatoes and grapes. His epiphany came while eating a grapefruit — he realized his breakfast was chock-full of natural lipids that could be harvested to make exosomes at a larger scale. The results of that work later were published in multiple scientific journals, including Nature Communications, and Cell Host & Microbe, and now are exclusively licensed to Senda Biosciences.

“These technologies could make a real difference in drug delivery, improving access and costs while reducing side effects, " said Guillame Pfefer, CEO of Senda Biosciences. "We look forward to working with UofL to further develop these innovations and get them to market."

Senda Biosciences holds an exclusive license to several UofL fruit-based drug delivery technologies, including technologies focused on the regulation of gut microbiota, through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which works with industry and startups to commercialize university technologies. The EPI-Center team worked closely with Zhang and Senda to develop and grow the partnership.

“This is the kind of outcome we want for all our technologies,” said Holly Clark, Ph.D., deputy director of the Commercialization EPI-Center, who manages Zhang’s intellectual property portfolio. “We’ve built a great working relationship between our innovator and our commercialization partner, Senda, and together, they will advance this suite of technologies for market.”

 

Nov. 30, 2020

Latest results of the Co-Immunity Project show COVID-19 infection rate in Jefferson County increased tenfold since September

Study reveals many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms, potentially spreading the virus unknowingly and raising concerns in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday
Latest results of the Co-Immunity Project show COVID-19 infection rate in Jefferson County increased tenfold since September

Estimated number of individuals in Jefferson County with active COVID-19 infection based on Co-Immunity Project testing

Coronavirus infections in Metro Louisville likely are far higher than the already spiking rates reported by the health department according to researchers with the Co-Immunity Project at the University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute. The latest results from the ongoing research indicate infection rates increased tenfold from September to November, rising from 0.2% to at least 2%.

Between Nov. 9 and 16, researchers at the Center for Predictive Medicine tested samples from 2,800 individuals representing all parts of Jefferson County for both active infection and antibodies, indicating previous infection. From those test results, project researchers estimate that during these dates, 1 in 50 Louisville residents were infected and that the rates of infection were nearly five times higher than the publicly reported number of cases, estimated at 0.4% of the population.

“At this rate, as many as 13,000 Louisville residents likely are infected today, many of them asymptomatic and who unwittingly may be spreading the virus,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., director of the institute. “These rates are startling and should make every person living in Louisville re-evaluate their personal precautions to avoid coronavirus, especially as we approach the holidays.”

Other key findings from the project’s latest round of testing:

  • Antibody testing indicates a 150% increase in antibody presence compared to documented cases.
  • Nearly 13,000 Louisville residents likely were infected between September and November.
  • About 45,000 people in Louisville likely have had a coronavirus infection at some point since the beginning of the pandemic based on antibody testing.
  • Shively and Northeastern Jefferson County currently show the highest rates of infection in the city.

Benefits of representative sampling

The Co-Immunity Project is a series of studies to estimate the true prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, in Jefferson County. This phase of the project involves testing a representative sample of individuals from different areas in the city in proportion to the age and race of the population of the area. Researchers say this approach provides a more reliable estimate of the breadth and spread of coronavirus infection in different parts of the city than testing only those who have reason to believe they may have the virus. The team tested its first community sample in June, a second in September and the most recent in November.

In addition to the 2% infection rate among randomized participants, individuals who participated without an invitation showed a 3.3% rate of infection. This is higher than the random sampling because individuals self-selecting for testing are more likely to have been exposed to the virus.

“Most of the individuals we identified as having coronavirus infection did not have overt symptoms, which indicates that a large number of cases are likely to remain undetected,” said Rachel Keith, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental medicine at UofL, who conducted the study. “We do not know for sure, but it seems likely that the recent increase in infections may be in part due to asymptomatic individuals.”

The project also tested for antibodies against the virus and found a one-and-a-half-fold increase in the number of individuals who previously had been exposed to the virus. Study researchers estimate that by Nov. 20, more than 45,000 individuals had been infected by the virus, rather than the 20,500 known cases documented so far. These data also suggest that approximately 15,000 individuals became infected between September and November.

“One reason for the recent increase in coronavirus infection may be the recent drop in temperature,” Bhatnagar said. “Our analysis of data from 55 countries shows that low temperatures promote the spread of the virus. Hence, we were expecting the rates of infection to rise in winter, but this increase is much more than we thought.

“Unfortunately, things are likely to get much worse in the coming months as temperatures dip even further. Therefore, we urgently need collective action, maybe just for a few months more. An effective vaccine is on the horizon so it seems that there is clear hope ahead that might hearten us to make the necessary sacrifices for a little longer.”

In an effort to obtain a uniform sample of city residents, investigators at the institute mailed 30,000 letters to households across Louisville for the November round of testing. The invitations were sent to individuals selected using addresses derived from U.S. Census Bureau tract boundaries in proportion to the total population in each geographic area.

In addition, any adult resident of Jefferson County was invited to participate through news and social media messages.

A total of 2,800 individuals were tested, 1,091 in response to the invitations and an additional 1,709 who booked their own appointments. The testing took place at 10 community drive-up or walk-up locations. Participants were tested both for the presence of the virus in participants’ nasal swabs and for antibodies against the virus in their blood, indicating a previous infection. Samples were analyzed at UofL’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) by assistant professor Krystal Hamorsky, Ph.D., and Amanda Lasnik, M.S., at the Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The random sampling of different neighborhoods also allowed the team to identify areas with higher prevalence of infection. Although infections were spread throughout the county, the highest rates were in the Shively area as well as northeastern Jefferson County.

The researchers are planning to conduct a fourth round of randomized coronavirus testing in Jefferson County Dec. 9-14.

This study was supported in part by the City of Louisville, the James Graham Brown Foundation, the Owsley Brown Family Foundation, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and others.

 

Nov. 24, 2020

Department Welcomes New Staff Member

Ms. Allison Tracy, B.A. joined the Department on November 2, 2020 as our new Graduate Program Coordinator. Allison was previously an Admissions Counselor and is currently working toward a Master of Education in Student Affairs in Higher Education. Welcome Allison! 

UofL cell therapy startup acquired by publicly traded biotech firm

UofL to lead planned clinical trial for COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress
UofL cell therapy startup acquired by publicly traded biotech firm

Stuart K. Williams II, Ph.D.

A University of Louisville-born startup using innovative personalized cell therapies to help patients with pancreatitis and other conditions has been acquired by publicly traded biotech company, Orgenesis Inc. (NASDAQ: ORGS) in a roughly $15 million deal.

The startup, Koligo Therapeutics Inc., led by a UofL alumnus, was launched in 2016 to develop and commercialize UofL research and technology for personalized therapies using a patient’s own cells. One UofL-developed therapy for pancreatitis already is on the market and another for COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress soon will enter a multi-site phase 2 clinical trial led by UofL.

“These therapies have come a long way since that first ‘eureka’ moment in the lab at UofL,” said Stuart K. Williams II, Ph.D., a professor in the UofL Department of Physiology who co-invented the technologies, co-founded Koligo and now serves as its chief technology officer. “This acquisition supports expanded treatment of chronic pancreatitis patients and could further our cell-based treatments for COVID-19 patients throughout the United States.”

The first therapy originated in UofL’s islet transplant program with co-inventors Williams, Michael Hughes, M.D., and Balamurugan Appakalai, Ph.D., with early grant funding from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. This therapy is now marketed as Kyslecel ™ to treat chronic and recurrent acute pancreatitis, which can cause pain, inflammation and diabetes as the pancreas degrades. The technology is available today in six U.S. hospitals and so far has been used to treat 38 patients.

In the Kyslecel therapy, a surgeon removes the diseased pancreas and sends it to Koligo where the islets are extracted and preserved to make Kyslecel. The drug is then returned to the patient’s health care facility to be infused into the liver where the islets are expected to function and produce the insulin needed to regulate blood sugar. Williams said the goal for the next generation of islet cell therapies will be to deliver the islets via implant created using 3D-V, a UofL-developed bioprinting technology. 

Koligo plans to test another therapy, KT-PC-301, in treating COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in a forthcoming multi-site phase 2 randomized clinical trial, pending FDA review and clearance of an Investigational New Drug application.

The planned trial, led by Mohamed Saad, M.D., chief of the UofL Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Disorders Medicine, is expected to enroll 75 COVID-19 patients. A list of other ongoing clinical trials at UofL is available here.

ARDS can occur in critical cases of COVID-19 when the lungs swell and fill with fluid as the body tries to fight off the infection. KT-PC-301 is a cell therapy that is derived from a patient’s own fat tissue. A small amount of fat is collected from the patient and sent to Koligo to make KT-PC-301. The product is manufactured within hours and sent back to the hospital for intravenous administration. KT-PC-301 then migrates to the patient’s lungs to reduce inflammation.

UofL licensed the Kyslecel and 3D-V technologies exclusively to Koligo through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which works with startups and industry to commercialize research-born technology. Those licenses transfer to Orgenesis. UofL also maintains an equity stake in Koligo which has become an equity stake in Orgenesis after closing of that transaction.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with UofL, now with an even wider reach and global scale,” said Koligo Chief Executive Officer Matthew Lehman, who also is a former UofL McConnell Scholar and political science and history alumnus. “Together, Orgenesis and UofL will further develop these therapies that have real potential to save lives.”

Schadt named to Association of Professors of Dermatology board

Schadt named to Association of Professors of Dermatology board

Courtney Schadt, MD, FAAD

Courtney Schadt, M.D., of the UofL School of Medicine has been named to the Board of Directors of the Association of Professors of Dermatology. The APD is the primary professional organization in the United States focused on the promotion of medical education, research and patient care, particularly in undergraduate and graduate dermatology training programs.

Schadt is an associate professor in the UofL Division of Dermatology, part of the Department of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

In addition to her clinical duties, Schadt serves as the chief of dermatology at the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center and director of the Dermatology Residency Program and clerkship director for the Medical Student Rotation in Dermatology in the School of Medicine.

UofL Health to provide crucial detox services to Louisville’s south side

Mary & Elizabeth and Peace hospitals partner to open voluntary medical detox unit to better address the community’s opioid epidemic

Southside residents now have increased access to crucial addiction recovery services at UofL Health – Mary & Elizabeth Hospital’s new voluntary medical detox unit. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital has partnered with UofL Health – Peace Hospital to create the unit, which will be staffed with medical personnel and therapists specifically trained to treat behavioral health issues and addiction.

While detox services have long been offered at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, the new dedicated unit allows for specialized care team to better monitor health and vital signs throughout the detox process to prevent dangerous symptoms from occurring. The team also will offer therapy groups and licensed therapists who will assist with discharge planning and aftercare services to ensure patients maintain their treatment plans to achieve long-term sobriety and increased well-being. In addition, art and music will be incorporated into support groups and guided meditation.

“The neighborhoods that encompass Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and the surrounding area experience a disproportionate amount of opioid addictions and overdoses,” said Melisa Adkins, chief administrative officer at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital. “This new detox unit will help those who suffer take the initial steps to help conquer their addiction in a convenient, supportive and safe environment.” 

Mary & Elizabeth Hospital will initially staff 12 private-bed rooms, but has the capacity to care for up to 25 patients. The unit will specialize in those detoxing off various substances such as EtOH (ethanol/alcohol abuse), opiates and benzodiazepines that may also have a comorbidity or medical complication. Referrals are expected from the Mary & Elizabeth emergency department and Peace Hospital, across UofL Health, as well as from various other emergency departments or freestanding psychiatric facilities in the Louisville area.

At discharge, a therapist/case manager will work with each individual patient to assess future needs, including community resources, placement at a long-term rehab facility and continued therapy. Just across the street, Peace Hospital offers a full complement of adult outpatient services, including specialized treatment methods with motivational interviewing, group therapy and 12-step facilitation. The program focus is on adults 18 years or older, and additional support is available such as transportation and six months of free after-care.

In addition to the voluntary medical detox unit, both Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and Peace Hospital offer long-acting injection (LAI) clinics, which provide monthly shots of long-acting medications to help patients with opioid addiction and schizoaffective disorders. Some patients will be able to have orders issued from Mary & Elizabeth physicians to receive LAI injections immediately after discharge from the detox unit but before leaving campus to assist in their ongoing recovery.

“Addiction to opioids, alcohol or any other substance is a concerning medical issue — not a moral failing — and these patients need ready access to knowledgeable, compassionate care,” said Jeff Graves, M.D., chief medical officer at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital. “By increasing access to these services to the most vulnerable populations in the area, we are doing our part to help set them up for long-term success.”

For more information regarding Mary & Elizabeth’s voluntary detox unit, please visit: www.uoflhealthnetwork.org/inpatient-medical-detox.

UofL receives $11.5 million to advance cancer immunotherapies

Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy to develop and improve cancer treatments that harness the immune system
UofL receives $11.5 million to advance cancer immunotherapies

Jun Yan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UofL Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy (center) with graduate student Yunke Wang (left) and MD/PhD student Anne Geller.

Cancer remains one of the most difficult and deadly challenges in human health, affecting Kentuckians at a higher rate than residents of any other state and killing more than 600,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. In recent decades, therapies that engage the immune system to treat cancer have given hope to millions of cancer patients.

Building on more than two decades of success in cancer research, the University of Louisville is poised to advance immunotherapy with a grant of $11.5 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to establish the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy (CCII). The new center will develop and improve strategies that use the immune response to fight cancer. The five-year grant also will allow UofL to establish the CCII as a National Institutes of Health-designated Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) to support young investigators and develop additional basic, translational and clinical research at the UofL Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

“One of the university’s Grand Challenges is to advance the health of all people,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “Through this center, our cancer researchers will grow the field of immunotherapy, saving the lives of many more patients with cancer in the future.”

“Our mission is to harness the power of the immune system to eradicate cancer,” said Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Brown Cancer Center. “The University of Louisville, UofL Health and the Brown Cancer Center have been at the forefront of the clinical development of a new generation of immunotherapies that have been proven to increase the survival of cancer patients. This grant from the federal government leverages our existing strengths in cancer immunology and clinical trials to accelerate the development of new immunotherapies that will translate into lives saved across the globe."

Cancer survivor Jeff Habermel received two different immunotherapies at Brown Cancer Center in the course of treatment for three different cancers, including metastasized melanoma.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have the type of care that Dr. Chesney and Dr. (Donald) Miller and the whole staff provide at the Brown Cancer Center. We have a world-class facility right in our backyard,” Habermel said. “I truly feel I am the luckiest man in the world to live in a time when we have such technologies and such amazing abilities to treat cancer in these ways.”

The newest cancer treatments often are available at Brown Cancer Center through clinical trials before they are available anywhere else. One such treatment is CAR T-cell therapy, in which a patient’s own immune cells known as T cells are modified in the lab to more effectively attack cancer cells. UofL announced the creation of the Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program at UofL in October.

“Our leading-edge cancer program improves access for patients in our region, giving them the opportunity to benefit from life-saving immunotherapies through clinical trials,” said Tom Miller, CEO of UofL Health. “Thousands of our cancer patients – our neighbors and family members – are alive today because of this early focus on drugs that activate immunity against cancer.”

Researchers within the CCII will build on expertise and resources gained from previous research at UofL to develop better cancer immunotherapies. This will be achieved in part by enabling talented junior investigators who have not yet obtained major funding to advance their research and subsequently obtain major grant awards of their own.

“One of the major goals of the center is to cultivate the next generation of cancer scientists in immunology and immunotherapy,” said Jun Yan, M.D., Ph.D., professor, director of the CCII and chief of the UofL Division of Immunotherapy. “Starting in year two, we will call for pilot projects that will bring in more researchers and investigators to work on immunotherapy and immunology.”

The young researchers are provided funding, mentorship and access to sophisticated facilities to advance their research. Once CCII-supported researchers obtain their own funding they rotate out, allowing new investigators to come in to the program.

“It’s training a cohort of new investigators who will have their own large grants and expertise,” said Paula Bates, Ph.D., professor of medicine and co-investigator for the CCII along with John Trent, Ph.D. “We are building a critical mass of well-funded researchers in the area.”

Senior UofL faculty members Robert Mitchell, Ph.D., Nejat Egilmez, Ph.D., Haribabu Bodduluri, Ph.D., Huang-Ge Zhang, Ph.D., and Bing Li, Ph.D., will serve as mentors and core directors for the CCII. In the first year of the program, four junior researchers at UofL are conducting projects to improve the effectiveness of immune therapies.

  • Chuanlin Ding, Ph.D., is investigating the impact of chemotherapy on anti-tumor immunity in breast cancer order to discover effective combination regimens that improve conventional chemotherapy.
  • Qingsheng Li, Ph.D., is exploring a method to improve immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy for non-small cell lung cancer. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that blocks proteins (checkpoints) made by immune system cells, such as T cells. The checkpoints can prevent T cells from attacking cancer cells.
  • Corey Watson, Ph.D., is studying immune cells to determine which of these cells are beneficial to lung cancer patient outcomes and how they may help kill tumor cells.
  • Kavitha Yaddanapuddi, Ph.D., is studying immune checkpoint inhibitor resistance in lung cancer patients. This will help in developing therapies that reduce resistance and improve treatment.

This grant may be extended for two additional five-year phases. A previous CoBRE program for cancer research at UofL was extended through all three phases, lasting 15 years. That program significantly expanded the contingent of both junior and senior investigators at UofL, including Chesney, Trent and others whose research was funded by the previous program.

“This type of funding has been truly transformative for this cancer center,” Trent said. “The research for the current generation of immunotherapeutic checkpoint inhibitors was done more than 18 years ago. This grant’s research will feed into the clinical work in time. These grants lay the groundwork for the next generation of therapies.”

To extend the impact of the CCII still further, Kosair Charities has provided an additional $200,000 to facilitate the discovery and development of immunotherapy drugs for children with cancer. This gift bridges the CCII and the UofL Kosair Charities Pediatric Oncology Research Program, allowing the CCII to focus also on immuno-oncology for children.

“Kosair Charities is proud to be the first community partner to support the UofL Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy,” said Kosair Charities President Keith Inman. “The UofL Kosair Charities Pediatric Cancer Research Program will allow this new center to include crucial pediatric cancer research as well as expand the scope to all people living with cancer – children and adults alike.”

 

 

Sept. 14, 2020

Professors States and Whittemore receive UofL distinguished research awards

 

 

 

 

J. Christopher States, PhD, professor of pharmacology & toxicology, distinguished university scholar, vice chair for research in the department of pharmacology and toxicology and associate dean for research in the School of Medicine, has been awarded the UofL 2020 Distinguished Faculty Award in the category of Outstanding Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity. Professor States’ research is funded by two research project grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). He also leads the team that recently received an NIEHS Core Center grant that funds the Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences. Read more about professor States’ outstanding scholarship, research and creative activity.



 

 

 



Scott Whittemore, PhD, professor, distinguished university scholar and vice chairman for research in the School of Medicine has been awarded the UofL 2020 Distinguished Faculty Award in the category of Outstanding Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity (Career Achievement). Professor Whittemore joined the faculty in Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami in 1986 as one of the founding scientists of the newly formed Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. In 1998, he was recruited to the University of Louisville Department of Neurological Surgery as the Henry D. and Marianna Garretson Endowed Professor of Spinal Cord Injury Research. Dr. Whittemore holds a secondary faculty appointment in pharmacology & toxicology. Read more about professor Whittemore’s distinguished research career.  

School of Medicine faculty establish endowed fund to combat racial inequality

Goal of $1 million targeted to bolster UofL’s Cardinal Anti-Racist Agenda
School of Medicine faculty establish endowed fund to combat racial inequality

Students, residents and faculty take part in #WhiteCoats4BlackLives

UofL medical faculty leaders have pledged $50,000 toward a $1 million goal to address long-standing racial inequities in medical education.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine’s Endowed Excellence Fund for Diversity has been established by several department chairs to address systemic racism. This is in response to UofL President Neeli Bendapudi’s challenge asking for ideas and support in making UofL the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

"I am proud and deeply grateful for the leadership of these faculty who are using their philanthropic and other financial resources to create a fund that will promote diversity at the School of Medicine both now and for the future," said Toni Ganzel, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine.

The endowment has been established by: 

  • Sean Francis, M.D., M.B.A., chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women’s Health
  • Ronald Gregg, Ph.D., chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
  • William Guido, Ph.D., chair of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology
  • Irving Joshua, Ph.D., chair of Physiology
  • Maureen McCall, Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
  • Craig S. Roberts, M.D., M.B.A., chair of Orthopaedic Surgery

"This might have more impact at UofL than anything else I have done," Gregg said.

The endowment is expected to be used for scholarships, resident stipends, faculty recruitment and retention packages and other unforeseen opportunities. A dean-appointed selection committee composed of diverse members of the School of Medicine faculty, staff and students will help guide spending decisions.

To learn more about UofL’s anti-racism agenda and diversity efforts, please visit the following websites:

Consider making a gift using the secure online giving page, follow give.louisville.edu/eefd.

Faculty and staff have the option to make contributions by payroll deduction to "UofL Endw Excellence Diversity" Click here for instructions for setting up payroll deduction through ULink. 

For questions or to establish a multi-year pledge, please contact University Advancement at 502.852.2794.