Dr. Jonathan Kopechek awarded the Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association

Headshot of Jonathan Kopechek

June 21, 2017

A junior faculty member of the Bioengineering department, Dr. Jonathan Andrew Kopechek was recently awarded the Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association. The grant offers research funding to help junior investigators establish independent research careers. The project, entitled “Ultrasound-Targeted Delivery of miRNA Therapeutics for Cardiac Repair after Myocardial Infarction,” work is to evaluate whether targeted delivery of micro-RNA therapeutics to the heart can suppress pathological ventricular remodeling and promote cardiac repair following a heart attack.

“In this project, we will explore ultrasound and microbubble-targeted therapeutic delivery in a mouse model of myocardial infarction. We expect to work on this project for three years and we hope to follow it with additional studies assessing efficacy in large animal models before proceeding to clinical trials. We also plan to continue investigating the mechanisms involved in facilitating targeted delivery to the heart with this therapeutic approach,” says Kopechek.

A graduate from Ohio State University, with a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati, his studies educational background is split between Electrical & Computer Engineering and Bioengineering, with an emphasis on medical imaging. As a bioengineer with expertise is in the areas of ultrasound imaging and the development of microbubbles for therapeutic delivery, Kopechek is part of a multi-disciplinary team working on the project.

He explains, “Our team includes Dr. Roberto Bolli, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine and Director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, and Dr. Guruprasad Giridharan, Associate Chair of Bioengineering and a member of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute.”

Continuing he adds, “Dr. Bolli and his team have extensive research and clinical expertise in cardiac therapy and biology, and Dr. Giridharan has significant expertise in modeling and testing of cardiovascular flow dynamics. I have over 10 years of research experience in the field of image-guided therapy. Our collaboration brings together a significant amount of knowledge and experience across a wide range of disciplines, which will be invaluable for this project.”

The grant scored in the top 0.28% of applicants, which is no small feat.

“The Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association is designed to support promising beginning scientists as they transition toward independence in cardiovascular research. This grant provides funding that will enable Dr. Kopechek to build a strong Bioengineering research program at UofL. The success of his grant application reflects well on the Department of Bioengineering, the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, and the Speed School of Engineering at UofL,” says Dr. El-Baz.

Kopechek is optimistic that their research could provide realistic and affordable treatment for heart patients, while learning more about their promising delivery system.

“Our ultimate goal is to reach the stage where our research can be translated to the clinic for patient care. Ultrasound and microbubbles are already approved for clinical use, so we expect that our approach will be a feasible non-invasive treatment for patients. At the same time, we also hope to learn more about the mechanisms of action for ultrasound and microbubble-targeted therapeutic delivery,” says Kopechek.