News

UofL researcher uses fruit for less toxic drug delivery

UofL 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, 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. 

The UofL technologies use exosomes – 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. 

“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.”

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.

Please see the full article by Baylee Pullam here.

 

UofL cancer researcher Paula Bates named EPIC Innovator of the Year

University of Louisville researchers and innovators love a good challenge. And in 2020 — a year of challenges — they continued pushing forward, creating and commercializing groundbreaking technologies that can improve the way we work and live. They were recognized for those contributions at the presentation of the second annual EPIC Innovation Awards, held January 28. 

“Innovation is absolutely critical to UofL’s mission,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “It’s what drives us and inspires us. Our three most important goals as a university are to be a great place to learn, to work and to invest, and the work of these innovators contributes to all three.” 

The second annual event, hosted virtually this year by the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation and its technology transfer arm, the Commercialization EPI-Center, honored UofL innovators who had recently been awarded a patent or whose technology had been licensed to a company for commercialization in fiscal year 2020, which ended June 30, 2020. 

Two large awards were also presented: Paula Bates was given the Innovator of the Year Award, and Theo Edmonds, Brad Shuck and Laura Weingartner all accepted Trailblazer awards on behalf of their teams.

Innovator of the Year, Bates, is a cancer researcher and serial inventor, known for a long track record of developing strong partnerships with industry to commercialize her technologies. In 2020, she partnered with other UofL innovators to develop a potential breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19 that is believed to block the virus from infecting human cells. The technology was licensed to a now publicly-traded biomedical company, which is working with UofL to further develop it for market.

Bates also has a history of helping others innovate, including through the recently launched KYNETIC program, an NIH REACH-hub, which focuses on training, mentorship and funding to help get technologies from lab to market. 

All told, fiscal year 2020 was the best on-record for innovation at UofL, with a total income of $9.4 million driven by a strong year for startups and deals. It also was UofL’s best year on-record for competitive research funding, with total new awards of $170 million.

Please see the full article by Baylee Pullam here.

 

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

John Trent, 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.

Fellows are selected for their “spirit of innovation” in university research, helping to generate groundbreaking inventions that have a tangible impact on the 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 the University of Louisville. The 2020 Fellow class of 175 inventors represents 115 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide.

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.

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

Please see the full article by Baylee Pullam here.

Cruzin’ for Cancer to benefit cancer patients at UofL

Cruzin’ for Cancer is on for 2021 and will include more than the single-day event that has been held the past six years. This year, there will be an additional car show and monthly events through October, all with the goal of helping cancer patients at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center and beyond.

More details can be found here.

UofL receives $8.6 million for COVID-19 wastewater research

Findings could lead to public health breakthrough for monitoring pandemics

The University of Louisville has received $8.6 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to back research that could help health departments use wastewater to monitor the rate of COVID-19 infection.

UofL researchers already are testing wastewater to determine whether coronavirus infection exists in different neighborhoods around Jefferson County. This new work goes one step further, with the goal of estimating how many people within those neighborhoods are infected. If virus levels are high in the wastewater, it may be a signal of widespread infection in the community. 

“This could revolutionize the way we track and contain pandemics, and not just COVID-19,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, professor of medicine. “It gives us an invaluable tool that could offer a clearer view of where and how the virus spreads.”

Researchers at UofL’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, where Bhatnagar is director, began testing wastewater last year as part of the Co-Immunity Project, a groundbreaking partnership with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council to track COVID-19 in Metro Louisville. 

As part of that effort, the Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District has sent weekly samples from 12 sites representing multiple neighborhoods and five water quality treatment centers that aggregate the entire county to the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for virus analysis.

In this new work, MSD and other community partners will continue collecting wastewater samples over the next six months. After analysis, UofL will also send the results to the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System, which will help inform efforts across the U.S. 

As with previous rounds of COVID-19 testing conducted through the Co-Immunity Project, researchers will recruit participants by sending letters to selected households across Jefferson County. They hope to continue to enroll a few thousand people every month and will compare their COVID-19 infection and antibody results with wastewater samples from the same area, with the goal of finding how they correlate.

“The aim of the project is to figure out whether we can estimate how many people in a given area are infected by simply testing the community wastewater,” said Ted Smith, associate professor of medicine and a lead on the wastewater epidemiology project. “Additionally, this is a passive and comparatively low-cost way to monitor community infection and has the additional benefit of being inclusive of all communities in our city and is a promising step to ensuring public health equity.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Co-Immunity Project has conducted ongoing testing and surveys to better understand the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19. In the past year, UofL researchers have tested more than 12,000 people for COVID-19 infection and antibodies, beginning with frontline health care workers. They also have worked to gauge how local citizens feel about COVID-19 vaccines, with 91 percent of Jefferson County residents in a recent poll saying they would like to be vaccinated.

“This is critically important work in our fight against COVID-19,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “Our hope is that by working with the CDC, we can develop these new, more efficient tools for tracking pandemics and take a big step in advancing health for all of our community.” 

Last year, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), then the Senate majority leader, negotiated and championed five historic and completely bipartisan COVID-19 rescue packages. In addition to supporting workers and propping up the economy, these relief bills also allocated $33.4 billion for COVID-19 testing. McConnell personally called then-U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to request that the CDC direct a portion of that funding to UofL’s Co-Immunity Project.

Our country has responded to this terrible pandemic with innovation and discovery and Kentucky continues to play a major role in beating this virus. I’d like to congratulate Dr. Bhatnagar and UofL’s entire Co-Immunity Project on their groundbreaking study,” McConnell said. After hearing about their work, I took this project to the highest levels of the federal government to help accelerate their research with additional federal funding. As UPS and other Louisville employers are sending safe and effective vaccinations around the country, I’m proud top researchers right here at UofL are pushing the boundaries of knowledge in detection and prevention.”

 

Kosair Charities' lifetime giving to UofL tops $50 million

Kosair Charities' lifetime giving to UofL tops $50 million

Malcolm MacIntyre, a patient at the Kosair Charities Center for Pediatrc NeuroRecovery, uses the specially designed pediatric treadmill for children

Current year’s support of over $1 million continues funding for children’s health

 

A relationship begun nearly 40 years ago is still going strong.

Since 1982, Kosair Charities has been a solidly dependable supporter of children’s health programs at the University of Louisville. This year, total donations have reached more than $50.4 million.

Moving the total past the $50 million mark this year is over $1 million in funding from the charity – the largest in Kentuckiana – to support programs in pediatric forensic medicine, neuro-recovery and cancer research along with the Center for Women & Infants at UofL Hospital.

“Kosair Charities has made immeasurable contributions to the University of Louisville, this community and beyond. I believe what makes a partnership great is a shared vision. And that is certainly the case with Kosair Charities and UofL,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “Kosair Charities has given to so many areas across the University of Louisville, and the impact can be felt far and wide throughout our community, region and beyond.”

“Louisville is my home, UofL my school, and Kosair Charities is my passion. It is special to be able to pull it all together to help children move forward,” said Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities. “For almost 100 years Kosair Charities has had one mission, one focus, and that is for children to overcome their obstacles and reach their full potential. For 38 of those years, the University of Louisville has been an important partner, as we have invested in research, programs, facilities and people at the university who can make that vision, that mission a reality.”

The support is as important to UofL for its consistency as much the dollars donated, said UofL Vice President for Advancement Jasmine Farrier. “All philanthropic gifts are impactful, but this level of extraordinary support given consistently over decades is truly transformational,” Farrier said. “We are so fortunate to have Kosair Charities’ commitment to our children’s health programs.”

Recent gifts made by Kosair Charities to the university have helped fund:

  • UofL Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine: Led by Dr. Melissa Currie, the first board-certified child abuse pediatrician in Kentucky, this division focuses on physical, mental and sexual abuse and neglect in children.
  • Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery: The gift from Kosair Charities targets paralysis in children with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a disease that affects the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, causing the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. Although occurrences are relatively rare, cases of AFM have been on a steady increase since 2014.
  • Kosair Charities UofL Brown Cancer Center Pediatric Cancer Research: Drawing upon the strengths of researchers and physicians in the UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center, this program applies immunotherapy – the use of the patient’s own immune system – to fight children’s cancer.
  • UofL Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants: Kosair Charities funding enables the center to purchase upgraded infant warmers for its cutting-edge Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that cares for the tiniest and most vulnerable newborns.

 

#WeAreUofL

 

About Kosair Charities: Since 1923, Kosair Charities has helped children reach their potential while overcoming obstacles. Kosair Charities enhances the health and well-being of children by delivering financial support for health care, research, education, social services  and child advocacy. We envision a world in which children in need live life to the fullest. For more information, please visit kosair.org.

Department of Pediatrics Faculty presenting at the 2nd Annual Reeve Summit

Department of Pediatrics' academic researchers Kyle Brothers, MD, PhD, Deborah Winders-Davis, PhD, and Margaret Calvery, PhD will join Department of Neurological Surgery colleague Andrea Behrman, PhD to host Reeves Summit panel session titled "Recovery of Children with SCI through Interview with Caregivers"  Apriul 27 - 29, 2021.

 

Kyle Brothers, MDKyle Brothers, MD, PhD
Division Chief, Pediatrics Clinical and Translational Research


Margaret Calvery, PhD

Margaret Calvery, PhD
Associate Professor, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics


Deborah DavisDeborah Winders Davis, PhD
Director, Child & Adolescent Health Research Design and Support Unit

 

UofL research could eliminate dangerous side effects of gene therapy delivery

UofL research could eliminate dangerous side effects of gene therapy delivery

Maureen McCall, Ph.D.

New research by the University of Louisville with colleagues at Harvard University could prevent dangerous and potentially life-threatening side effects the delivery mechanism for targeted gene therapies meant to slow everything from muscle atrophy to vision loss.

The work targets a leading delivery method for the therapies, adeno-associated virus (AAV), and recently was published in the journal Science Translational MedicinebyUofL’s Maureen A. McCall, Ph.D., and her colleagues from Harvard University and its Wyss Institute.

AAV is used in treating a number of conditions, including the retinal diseases McCall studies at UofL. However, it also has been known to cause serious side effects, such as elevated immune response and inflammation.

“It’s a real problem since there’s no real control,” said McCall, the Kentucky Lions Eye Research Endowed Chair and a professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. "Even with the best-laid plans, you see some inflammatory retinal response, and the amount can vary widely, including dangerous levels.”

The new research focuses on the role of the viral capsid, a component in AAV that’s believed to cause this response. Parts of the viral capsid interact with a protein known as Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), which senses foreign DNA in the body. TLR9 triggers the immune response, which causes inflammation and can reduce or eliminate the therapy's effects.

“So, the hypothesis was that if you could change that capsid code and mask it from the Toll-like receptor, that you could build a better delivery tool,” McCall said.

The idea is to “cloak” the deleterious part of the capsid with a series of synthetic DNA “inflammation-inhibiting oligonucleotide” sequences meant to stop TLR9’s reaction. In mouse models, the researchers saw a 95% reduction in inflammation.

In many cases, gene therapies for optical diseases are delivered through the retina since the blood-retina barrier helps to mitigate some of the immune response. Ying Kai Chan, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral fellow in George Church's group at the Wyss Institute, reached out to McCall in 2018 to partner on this work because of her research expertise and the experience of her UofL colleagues with these injections, especially Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology.

McCall's work at UofL specifically focuses on the use of gene therapies to treat retinal diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa and other conditions that eventually can cause blindness. For some of these conditions, there is no known cure and many therapies are still in development and clinical trials. McCall said eliminating side effects associated with AAV delivery gets researchers one step closer to successful treatment.

“Solving this key problem with delivery is huge," she said. “These therapies show promise in significantly increasing people's quality of life. My hope is that one day we can use these therapies to slow – or even stop – the progression of these diseases and restore sight.”

Co-Immunity Project survey of Jefferson County residents shows 91 percent of people would choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Jefferson County residents would choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a survey conducted by researchers in the University of Louisville Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute. The survey was conducted as part of the Co-Immunity Project, ongoing research to better understand the impact of COVID-19 in Jefferson County.

In February, the researchers asked adults living in Jefferson County their perceptions about the coronavirus vaccine in order to identify potential barriers to vaccine uptake and to better understand vaccine hesitancy. Letters were mailed to 35,999 households across all geographic sectors of the county inviting the recipients to take part in the survey as well as to make an appointment for free testing for COVID-19, also part of the Co-Immunity Project.

“We wanted to better understand which residents had access to the vaccine as well as their attitudes toward the vaccine,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., director of the UofL Brown Envirome Institute. “This information would help us improve equity in vaccine availability as well as help us understand the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in our community. So, we incorporated the survey opportunity into our outreach for random community testing for the virus.”

The survey included questions about whether the person had been vaccinated, where they received most of their information about the vaccine and where they would prefer to be vaccinated. They also had an option to indicate they would not get vaccinated. They also were asked what would make them more likely to be vaccinated and what influenced those who were hesitant to vaccination.

Participants completed the questionnaire on a website that also offered them the opportunity to schedule an appointment for COVID-19 infection and antibody testing. Most of the 1,296 survey participants were age 60 or over (44%), female (61%) and white (84%) and 90.2% reported being unvaccinated.

An overwhelming majority of participants (91%) indicated they would choose to be vaccinated, with slightly lower rates among minority participants. Vaccine-hesitant participants suggested that more evidence of safety and effectiveness or their health provider’s recommendation would increase their likelihood of getting vaccinated. Although vaccines are provided for free, concerns about cost were seen in more than half the participants.

While most vaccine-hesitant participants expressed concern about side effects and safety, followed by not “tested on enough people who are like me,” minority participants expressed these concerns at higher rates and many vaccine participants from all races had concerns about the timeline of vaccine development. Other concerns were related to the efficacy of the vaccines, vaccines in general and government mistrust.

About 3% of white and 8% of minority participants indicated they would never choose vaccination. Minority participants reported they were more likely to choose vaccination with celebrity endorsement, offerings by faith organizations and vaccination requirements. White participants were more likely to choose vaccination if their family and friends or elected officials were vaccinated and with evidence of efficacy.

Most participants would prefer to be vaccinated by their health care provider, followed by a mobile or walk-in clinic, a pharmacy or a hospital. Other sites, such as community organizations, community recreation centers, workplaces or schools were of interest to one-fourth or less of participants. Minority participants were less interested in vaccination at work, pharmacies, libraries and mobile or walk-up clinics and more interested in being vaccinated at food distribution centers or by their health care provider.

Compared with white participants, minority participants were less likely to report knowing how to find out their vaccine eligibility or sign up for a vaccination.

While they acknowledge limitations to the study due to the fact that it was delivered along with the testing invitation and that it required a computer and internet access to complete, the researchers believe analysis of the results will be helpful in increasing access and acceptance of vaccines among different populations.

“Obtaining information on how to get a vaccine continues to be burdensome and solutions to this problem will help with more equitable vaccine distribution,” said Rachel Keith, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UofL Department of Medicine and a lead investigator in the Co-Immunity Project.

Aging experts from across the U.S. to speak at Optimal Aging Conference

Aging experts from across the U.S. to speak at Optimal Aging Conference

Presenter Stan Craig at the 2019 Optimal Aging Conference

Experts on aging from across the United States will share their knowledge at the fourth Optimal Aging Conference, hosted by the University of Louisville Trager Institute and the Kentucky Association for Gerontology. With an emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, the 2021 Optimal Aging Conference offers educational and networking opportunities for health care, social service and technology professionals, as well as older adults and their caregivers.

“Our strong line-up of speakers, breakout sessions and poster sessions is not to be missed for anyone working in the aging field or who has interest in inspiring our understanding of aging,” said Anna Faul, Ph.D., executive director of the Trager Institute. “After having to cancel last year’s event, we are excited to bring back the Optimal Aging Conference this year on a virtual platform that allows for an incredibly rich and engaging experience.”

The 2021 conference, scheduled for April 18-20, will feature experts in aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s research, innovation and public health and will be held virtually.

“The 2021 Optimal Aging Conference will provide outstanding resources, inspiring ideas and continuing education for Kentucky’s aging service professionals,” said Anne Wildman of the Kentucky Association of Gerontology. “The conference is a great opportunity for networking and professional development.”

2021 Optimal Aging Conference topics and speakers:

Aging Inspired in Kentucky: Directions in Aging Policy (Panel Discussion)

  • Sandy Markwood, CEO, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
  • Eric Friedlander, acting secretary, Kentucky Cabinet for Health & Family Services
  • Lindsey Hix, deputy director, Office of Senior Protection & Mediation, Office of the Kentucky Attorney General
  • Victoria Elridge, commissioner, Department for Aging and Independent Living

 A Community Network Approach to Health

  • Eric Feigl-Ding, Ph.D., chief health economist, MicroClinic International; faculty member, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

Ending the Alzheimer's Pandemic

  • Dale Bredesen, M.D., professor, UCLA; founding president and professor emeritus, Buck Institute for Research on Aging; author of New York Times bestseller, The End of Alzheimer’s

AARP Keynote: Words of Wisdom for #Agetech Entrepreneurs

  • Nigel Smith, M.B.A., director, Hatchery Ventures, AARP Innovation Labs, Washington

Alzheimer’s Update

  • Gregory Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology and director, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky

Guided by the theme “Aging Inspired,” conference attendees also will hear from experts on how to prevent financial elder abuse, national programs and arts activism counteracting ageism, programs for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, the future impacts of artificial intelligence and robotics in senior care, trauma-informed care of older adults, international evidence-based falls programs, lifestyle medicine nutrition and more.

Register through April 16. Contact Kelly Nason at or Barbara Gordon at barbara.gordon@louisville.edu for more information.

COVID-19 can't stop another successful Match Day for UofL Internal Medicine

Internal Medicine and Combined Med-Peds residency programs weather the pandemic storm once again to bring in solid classes
COVID-19 can't stop another successful Match Day for UofL Internal Medicine

The University of Louisville Internal Medicine and Med-Peds residency programs welcomes the Class of 2024 to UofL

"Match Madness" and the journey to one shining moment has begun as University of Louisville medical students, and others nationwide, found out where they will be furthering their careers in medicine.

March 19 was the annual Match Day, as prospective medical residents opened their envelopes from the National Residency Match Program to find where they had been matched for their future training as residents.

Conducted annually by the NRMP, The Match uses a computerized algorithm designed to the best results by aligning the preferences of applicants with the preferences of residency programs. The results are used to fill thousands of training positions available in the United States.

Like the previous year, Match Day was virtually virtual as the world continues to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"The UofL Internal Medicine Residency Program is absolutely thrilled to welcome this amazing class of interns!" Jennifer Koch, M.D., FACP, said. "We never imagined that we would be recruiting during a pandemic, but we all made it through, together!  We look forward to meeting and training this incredible group of doctors beginning in just a few short months."

In addition, the Combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program, under the direction of Laura Workman, M.D., FAAP, FACP, brought in yet another solid class.

Our incoming class for 2021 includes:

Categorical Residents

  • Mohamed Ahmed - Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Chris Artner - University of Louisville
  • Ryan Bailer - University of Louisville
  • Esther Bak - University of Louisville
  • Taylor Beckmann - Lincoln Memorial University
  • Phillip Cetina - Liberty University
  • Pooja Gandhi - Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Mark Gardon - Kansas City University
  • Hailey Griffey - University of Louisville
  • Joey Hebert - Indiana University
  • Michelle Kommor - University of Pikeville
  • Matt Mascioli - Lincoln Memorial University
  • Andrew McClintock - Southern Illinois University
  • Darshan Patel - Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Jen Pehl - University of Louisville
  • Daniel Rochester - Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Alexander Savino - University of Pikeville
  • Aangi Shah - B.J. Medical Collehe
  • Kamran Siddiqi - University of Kentucky
  • Niko Touloumes - Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Sam Walker - University of Kentucky
  • Evan Winrich - University of Louisville
  • Tim Yanni - Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Angelica Yun - University of Louisville

 

Preliminary Residents

  • Erich Berg - Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Andrew Bevins - University of Louisville
  • Ali Bilal - University of Texas
  • Sarah Bush - University of Louisville
  • Andrew Clingerman - Northwestern University
  • Mallory Foster - University of Louisville
  • Kyle Higbee - University of California, San Diego
  • Hamid Hussaini - Rocky Vista University
  • Kara Jones - West Virginia University
  • Blake Leeds - Marian University
  • Daniel McGowan - University of Illinois
  • Varun Ramakrishnan - University of Louisville
  • Katie Reinhart - Indiana University
  • Nick Sako - University of Texas San Antonio
  • Nick Wawryzniak - Nova Southeastern University
  • Marie Wilson - University of Minnesota

 

Combined Med-Peds Residents

  • Lucas Banter - Indiana University
  • Allison Etling - Indiana University
  • Shelby Falkenhagen - Central Michigan University
  • Jim Stanton - East Carolina University
  • Jared Young - University of Louisville

UofL pulmonologists treat first local patient in COPD clinical trial

Targeted lung denervation may offer new option for COPD patients

Physicians from the University of Louisville are the first in Kentucky to perform an investigational procedure designed to help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The procedure, known as targeted lung denervation (TLD), may provide an additional treatment option for patients suffering from frequent COPD flare-ups, or lung attacks.

COPD causes restricted airflow from the lungs, resulting in breathing difficulty, cough, mucus production and wheezing. TLD involves the removal of tissue in the lungs that may be making symptoms worse. Performed via bronchoscopy, the procedure is designed to disrupt pulmonary nerve reflexes, which may have the potential to reduce COPD exacerbations.

AIRFLOW-3, a phase 3 clinical trial sponsored by Nuvaira, is enrolling patients with moderate-to-severe COPD, high symptom burden and a history of COPD exacerbations, including increased coughing, wheezing and breathing distress, to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of TLD. 

Umair A. Gauhar, M.D., associate professor at the UofL School of Medicine, led a medical team in the Division of Pulmonology that successfully treated a COPD patient with TLD therapy in one-hour-long outpatient procedure at UofL Health – UofL Hospital. The patient returned home the same day. 

“Many of our COPD patients experience exacerbations which cannot be controlled with their inhaler medications,” Gauhar said.  “As a pulmonary community, we need to embrace the development of interventional therapies which may stabilize COPD patients and help reduce their risk of exacerbation. Based on the existing evidence, we are enthusiastic about the potential of TLD to meet a true unmet medical need and are proud to have treated our first patient in the AIRFLOW-3 clinical trial.”

Debbie Sowers, a 58-year-old resident of Madison, Ind., said she participated in the trial at UofL to help develop better treatments for COPD.

“I participated to help everybody that has COPD and to try to better my breathing,” Sowers said. “There need to be more studies on COPD because it is a really bad disease. It stops your life.”

UofL is the only center in Kentucky enrolling COPD patients for AIRFLOW-3 and is one of up to 25 centers across the United States enrolling patients in the trial.

Nuvaira is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. The company’s proprietary Nuvaira® Lung Denervation System addresses airway hyper-responsiveness, a pathophysiologic underpinning of both COPD and asthma, with TLD therapy. The Nuvaira Lung Denervation System is an investigational device in the United States and has CE mark approval in the European Economic Area (EEA). Nuvaira has completed and published four clinical studies, including AIRFLOW-2, a randomized, sham-controlled, double-blind, multicenter clinical trial.

UofL medical students encourage youth affected by violence to become future healers

UofL medical students encourage youth affected by violence to become future healers

Christopher 2X with UofL medical students Jenci Hawthorne, Karen Udoh and Briana Coleman at the presentation of the Kelsie Small Future Healer Award on Feb. 23.

High rates of violence have plagued Louisville in recent years, escalating sharply in 2020. Students in the UofL School of Medicine are working to combat patterns of violence with action.

Students in the UofL Student National Medical Association (SNMA) are working with Christopher 2X Game Changers and UofL faculty in creating the Future Healers Program to help Louisville youth affected by violence in their neighborhoods navigate the trauma of violence and inspire them to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Karen Udoh, UofL SNMA president and a second-year medical student, spearheaded the White Coats for Black Lives rally on the Health Sciences Center Campus in June 2020. But she and fellow SNMA members wanted to do more than only demonstrate to fight violence in the community.

“It’s not enough for us to be here in our white coats saying that we care and then go back to our offices and not do anything about it,” Udoh said. “That’s how we came to work with the UofL Department of Surgery, the Trauma Institute and the Christopher 2X Game Changers to create the Future Healers Program. We want to show these youth that we care about the environment they are in, we want to invest in them and change these issues.”

Udoh, Briana Coleman, Jenci Hawthorne and Satya Alluri worked with Department of Surgery faculty members Keith Miller, M.D., and Christopher Jones, M.D., to develop educational sessions to teach preschool and middle school students about general anatomy and surgery. The Future Healers Program is aimed to inspire youth in the neighborhoods most affected by violence to pursue lives of healing as health care professionals.

“We felt like this is our realm – medicine – so let’s inspire people. It’s a simple way we can at least show our youth, this is something you can aspire to be. You have a choice, you have options,” Udoh said.

In mid-February, the SNMA team conducted a pilot session of the Future Healers Program with approximately 50 preschool and middle school children at the Chestnut Street YMCA. The students conducted 45-minute interactive, virtual sessions that included pre-recorded videos with the faculty members, a mindfulness activity and hands-on activities for the kids. A “doctor’s bag” with masks, gloves and modelling clay for creating their own anatomy models was provided to each of the children.

“Seeing the children shape clay into stomachs and small intestines was such a joy. Together we crafted a space for intellectual curiosity and trust,” Hawthorne said. “Our goal is to create a trusting relationship with the youth that we hope can become our future healers. We want them to know that we see them and that we are here for them. We want them to see us as allies who love them and who care about them.”

With additional support from medical student, staff or trainee volunteers, sponsors, School of Medicine faculty members and Christopher 2X Game Changers, the UofL students plan to conduct future regularly scheduled sessions with the youth and to expand the program to more young people in the community.

“At the School of Medicine, we have a goal to create and train physicians who are culturally aware, culturally responsive and social-justice minded. We not only want to train the best doctors, but doctors who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get out into the community,” said Dwayne Compton, Ed.D., associate dean for community engagement and diversity in the School of Medicine and a faculty adviser for SNMA. “These students have created a program that will have a profound impact in our community.”

Earlier this week, Udoh and the SNMA joined Christopher 2X, UofL Health and the UofL Hospital Trauma Institute to present the first Kelsie Small Future Healer Award. The award honors the life of Kelsie Small, a nursing student at Northern Kentucky University who was shot and killed in Louisville in May 2020. Christopher 2X Game Changers will present the award annually to honor a skilled, compassionate health care worker. The first Future Healer Award was presented to Small’s mother, Delisa Love.

To support the SNMA Future Healers Program as a volunteer or through sponsorship, contact or faculty liaison .

UofL healers and researchers honored as health care heroes

UofL healers and researchers honored as health care heroes

V. Faye Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H.

Louisville Business First has named six medical professionals affiliated with the University of Louisville as 2021 Health Care Heroes, including a lifetime achievement award for V. Faye Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H.

A UofL School of Medicine alumna, Jones leads UofL’s diversity initiatives as senior associate vice president for diversity and equity. She also is associate vice president for health affairs/diversity initiatives, professor of pediatrics and vice chair, Department of Pediatrics-Inclusive Excellence.

In addition to the lifetime achievement award for Jones, the publication recognized the following faculty members and UofL Health providers as Health Care Heroes.

Front-line Hero:
Ruth Carrico, Ph.D., professor in the UofL Division of Infectious Diseases and a family nurse practitioner, UofL Health

Health Entrepreneur:
Suzanne Ildstad, M.D., professor, UofL Department of Surgery, director, UofL Institute for Cellular Therapeutics, founder and chief scientific officer, Talaris Therapeutics Inc., and Distinguished Professor of Transplantation Research at UofL Health - Jewish Hospital.

Innovator:
Paula Bates, Ph.D., professor of medicine at UofL School of Medicine, and Kenneth Palmer, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology and Helmsley Charitable Trust Endowed Chair in Plant-based Pharmaceutical Research at UofL as well as director of the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and UofL’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory.

Provider:
Valerie Briones-Pryor, M.D., medical director for the hospitalist team, UofL Health — Jewish Hospital and UofL Health — Mary & Elizabeth Hospital

Gary Weinstein, M.D., clinical associate professor for the UofL Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, owner of Gary Weinstein MD and founder/volunteer of the Louisville Free Mental Health Clinic. Weinstein practices at Louisville VA Medical Center.

The 2021 Health Care Heroes will be profiled in the April 9 edition of Louisville Business First and recognized during a virtual event Thursday, April 8, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event also will include a panel discussion with the CEOs of Louisville's three largest health systems: Tom Miller of UofL Health, Gerard Colman of Baptist Health and Russell Cox of Norton Healthcare. Register to attend here.

Medical Schools See an Increase in Applications During the Pandemic

Medical schools across the country are reporting surges in applications. The COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact during the 2021-2022 cycle.

Prospective students are looking to join medical students like Lisa Anakwenze. Anakwenze is a first year medical student at the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Medicine. She thinks the heroism of frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic might’ve inspired more people to apply.

“Applying to medical schools is an insanely tough process, but I think that a lot of people are motivated about what was going on in the pandemic,” said Anakwenze.

Since UofL's School of Medicine is a state school, about 75% of the class is from Kentucky. Dr. Stephen Wheeler, the Associate Dean of Admissions at UofL School of Medicine, said that the school has seen a 35% increase in out-of-state applications during the past five years.

“Science has brought to the forefront in terms of helping people the past year the pandemic and that’s part of it,” Wheeler said.

Experts believe that students have more time for applications since college classes have shifted online. Many schools extended deadlines and fewer applications are taking a gap year because of limited opportunities. The interview process is cheaper due to travel restrictions — all of these factors on top of the work of frontline healthcare workers helped contribute to the trend.

“I had personal stories related to health that inspired me for a lot of students, potentially seeing the impacts of COVID[-19] in their community may have inspired them to apply as well,” said Anakwenze.

Wheeler said that usually 40% of people that take the MCAT apply to medical schools to at least get into one of the schools to which they applied. UofL’s out of state applications compete for very few spots. Out of about 4,500 applications, the school only selects 42.

“We are very selective about who we interview from out of state,” Wheeler said. “Most of the ones we interview from out of state have some connection to Kentucky."

Anakwenze’s advice for students who didn’t get into a school is to not be discouraged.

“You have to be able to continue pushing yourself and have that drive and know where you belong and what you want out of life as well as the positive impact you want to make on other people,” she said.

UofL Health and Kindred Healthcare announce plans for inpatient rehabilitation hospital

Joint venture will build and operate 40-bed hospital in Louisville, Kentucky

UofL Health and Kindred Healthcare LLC have announced a joint venture to build and operate an inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

This new 40-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital will be located at 5000 Chamberlain Lane, near the intersection of I-71 and I-265 in the northeast area of Jefferson County, and will serve the growing East End of Jefferson County and adjacent counties. The approximately 55,000-square-foot, two-story rehabilitation facility will have all private rooms and focus on acute rehabilitation for patients who suffer from stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, complex neurological disorders, orthopedic conditions, multiple trauma, amputation and other injuries or disorders. Large multidisciplinary therapy gymnasiums will be outfitted with the latest therapeutic technologies, including augmented reality balance training, therapy bionics and a full body exoskeleton. The hospital will also include a therapeutic courtyard with exterior amenities.

UofL Health – Frazier Rehab Institute is recognized nationally as an innovator in rehab care. For more than six decades, patients from across the world have sought out Frazier Rehab for life-enhancing treatments and therapies. The new facility is expected to help manage the growing needs of the region and will free up access to the array of specialty programs at its downtown location with one common goal – helping people of all ages with disabilities reach their fullest potential in physical and cognitive functioning.

“This new inpatient rehabilitation hospital will combine Kindred’s national expertise in rehab excellence with Frazier Rehab’s first-in-class care and leading innovation,” said Tom Miller, CEO of UofL Health. “The new hospital will increase access to our rehab services, addressing unmet needs in our growing community.”

“We are proud to partner with UofL Health to offer the Louisville community increased access to high-quality inpatient rehabilitation services,” said Jason Zachariah, Kindred’s president and chief operating officer. “Frazier Rehab has an impressive legacy, with more than 60 years in rehab care, and we are excited to work alongside them to improve patients’ lives. This new hospital will be dedicated to passionately advocating for and providing hope, healing and recovery to patients in its care.”

The partners expect the hospital to open by the fourth quarter of calendar year 2022, subject to several regulatory and other approvals.

UofL tapped for Lilly monoclonal antibody trial in long-term care facilities

Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating bamlanivimab for prevention of COVID-19 in response to increased exposure risk
UofL tapped for Lilly monoclonal antibody trial in long-term care facilities

Release and stability testing of clinical trial materials. Photo: Eli Lilly and Company

Researchers from the University of Louisville are working with Eli Lilly and Company in a clinical trial to determine whether its monoclonal antibody treatment, bamlanivimab, can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

The Phase 3 trial enrolls residents and staff who live or work at facilities that have had a recently diagnosed case of COVID-19 and who now are at a high risk of exposure. The study, which included Essex Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Louisville recently, is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of bamlanivimab for the prevention of COVID-19. The study also is exploring treatment of recently diagnosed SARS-CoV-2- and COVID-positive patients who are at high-risk of developing severe disease.

As the only Kentucky location for the Phase 3 clinical trial, UofL’s Division of Infectious Diseases worked with mobile units deployed by Lilly to the Louisville site to enroll and treat trial participants. Julio Ramirez, M.D., director of the division, leads the work, which includes follow-up monitoring for study participants at this facility and any others in Kentucky who may participate in the trial.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with NIH and Lilly for the implementation of their BLAZE-2 study in Kentucky. With nearly 30,000 residents in long-term care facilities in the state, there is an urgent need for therapeutic strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in this vulnerable population. We are proud to be a part of this new type of clinical study for preventive treatment,” Ramirez said.

For this trial, Lilly deploys mobile research units to a long-term care site soon after an individual has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The unit team enrolls residents and staff members who volunteer to participate in the trial. The one-time study drug infusion and follow-up visits are administered to study volunteers at the long-term care facility. The UofL team works with the Lilly team during the initial site infusions and will monitor participants following the infusion for up to 25 weeks.

The first deployment in Kentucky was to Essex Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where 20 residents and staff members were enrolled in the study in November.

“Our elderly population is at a much higher risk of complications from COVID-19 and our staff and residents are happy to be participating in this study. I have personally witnessed the negative impact COVID-19 has had on nursing facilities,” said Robert Flatt, R.N., B.S.N., Essex administrator. “I am extremely proud to be an active participant in this collaborative study in the hopes that we will soon put an end to this pandemic.”

The virus is known to spread rapidly among staff and residents of long-term care facilities, who account for a high percentage of hospitalizations and deaths resulting from the virus.

“I am glad to be a part of this research study with the University of Louisville to help find treatment and prevention options for COVID-19. As a member of our community, I am happy to participate in the hopes of helping others. I am also excited to participate as I am a huge fan of the University of Louisville,” said Patricia L. Rollie, an Essex resident and study participant.

Antibodies are produced naturally by the immune system in response to viruses and other foreign invaders and help the body neutralize and destroy these threats. However, it takes time for the body to produce its own antibodies. Bamlanivimab is an antibody engineered from a COVID-19 survivor. Testing and previous trials have shown that manufactured antibodies can speed recovery or possibly prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on nursing home residents. We’re working as fast as we can to create medicines that might stop the spread of COVID-19 to these vulnerable individuals,” said Daniel Skovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. ”BLAZE-2 is a first-of-its-kind COVID-19 trial designed to address the challenging aspects of running a clinical trial in long-term care facilities, which normally do not conduct clinical trials.

As a result of a separate clinical trial, Lilly has received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for bamlanivimab to treat higher-risk patients recently diagnosed with mild-to-moderate COVID-19.

Bamlanivimab targets the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells, thus neutralizing the virus and potentially preventing and treating COVID-19. Bamlanivimab emerged from the collaboration between Lilly and AbCellera and was discovered by AbCellera and scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center. 

 

 

Feb. 8, 2021

UofL med students aim to reduce health disparities, engage others in community project series

UofL med students aim to reduce health disparities, engage others in community project series

GROW502

Amid the turmoil of 2020, Onu Udoh, a second-year student in the University of Louisville School of Medicine, decided it was time to take action to reduce the health disparities that plague underserved communities across Louisville.

So he founded GROW502: A Health Disparities Series to highlight these disparities and begin to make changes. Two other medical students and an undergraduate student from UofL joined him to lead the project, which will include anyone from across the university and the community to who would like to participate in the project’s education, engagement and advocacy events.

First-year medical students Lisa Anakwenze and Zoha Mian, along with Chidum Okeke, a senior UofL undergraduate student and Udoh outlined a multimodal approach to transforming  the 2017 Louisville Health Equity Report into a living representation of the current state of health in Louisville. Through art, new media and virtual workshops, the group will educate community members, students, staff, faculty and health care professionals about health disparities revealed in the report, while simultaneously empowering them to enact change. 

Beginning the week of Feb 8, students across the university are invited to join project leaders and community members in weekly activities focused on education, community engagement, advocacy and edutainment focused on ways to reduce health inequity.

Education panels will be led by Udoh and medical interest groups in ob/gyn, pediatrics, nutrition, neurology and psychiatry.

Anakwenze is leading community engagement by working with community partners such as Feed the West - Change Today, Change tomorrow, Family Health Centers, Louisville Lead Prevention Program, the Kentucky State Health Department and Healthy Babies to provide direct avenues to make a change within the Louisville Metro area.

Mian will lead weekly advocacy workshops to bring local policymakers together with students to advocate for a brighter tomorrow.

Okeke’s team will work to package and market the project, using the power of creative media to present unique perspectives on health disparities in Louisville. With edutainment ranging from infographics to videos to cartoons, the marketing team will create an engaging virtual environment to increase community awareness of the disparities that exist, with the goal of reducing their effects. 

“Overall, the mission of this project is to plant seeds of information and inspiration in our local community that will lead to a long-term reduction in Louisville’s health disparities,” Udoh said. “Our role is to support the sustainable growth of our community as we GROW a better tomorrow.”

Students, professionals and community members are encouraged to participate in the events by signing up through EventBrite. The activities, both live and virtual, and a schedule of events will be published on the group’s website www.grow502.org

UofL School of Medicine creates marketing and communications position

UofL School of Medicine creates marketing and communications position

Tonya Augustine

The UofL School of Medicine has named Tonya Augustine as its first director of strategic marketing and communications.

In this new position, Augustine will develop, manage and execute a strategic plan for the School of Medicine with the goal of raising its visibility on local, state and national levels, sustaining philanthropic support and recruiting students, faculty, residents and staff. She will serve as communications liaison between the School of Medicine and the UofL Office of Communications and Marketing, UofL Health and other university and community organizations.

“Tonya’s work will be invaluable in elevating the visibility of the School of Medicine. I am very excited to welcome her to our administrative staff,” said Toni Ganzel, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine.

Prior to assuming this role, Augustine was a communications specialist in the Division of Infectious Diseases within the school, where she marketed education and research programs and served as managing editor for two medical journals. Previously, she served as senior director of development for Active Minds Inc., a mental health nonprofit based in Washington, dedicated to providing self-help resources for young adults. A Kentucky native, Augustine earned a bachelor of business administration from the University of Kentucky.

Augustine began her new role Feb. 1.

 

 

Feb. 1, 2021

Long-time UofL faculty member joins School of Medicine to lead anti-racism initiatives

Long-time UofL faculty member joins School of Medicine to lead anti-racism initiatives

John Chenault

John Chenault will join UofL School of Medicine Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) as associate professor-director of anti-racism initiatives on Feb. 1.

In this new position, Chenault will support anti-racism in medical student education and lead the development, implementation and evaluation of initiatives guided by the School of Medicine UME Anti-Racism Task Force. He also will provide instruction to faculty and medical students related to undoing race-based medicine, including the incorrect use of race as biological construct, and will coach faculty in developing and updating teaching and exam materials.

A long-time UofL faculty member, Chenault has served as a medical librarian in the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library for 16 years and in the Pan African Studies Department of the College of Arts & Sciences for 14 years. Chenault brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this new position, having developed and taught undergraduate courses on “Race, Color and Consciousness,” “American Diversity” and “Slavery and the Slave Trade” in addition to publishing and presenting on the topics of institutional and scientific racism in various venues. 

In recent years, his research has focused on the history of medicine and slavery in the United States, including medical experimentation, medical apartheid, health disparities and the role of medical practitioners and biomedical researchers in the invention of race. Chenault has lectured on this research at national and international medical education conferences and taught continuing education classes for physicians and medical school faculty.

Chenault’s accomplishments include outreach efforts to diverse constituencies in Louisville and across the state. In October 2020, he accepted a second three-year appointment by the governor to represent the State of Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet on the state board of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.

Chenault has been an active volunteer on UofL’s Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality and the University Libraries Diversity Committee and he has supported the work of the Health Sciences Center Office of Diversity & Inclusion by conducting workshops, writing articles and assisting with media and promotional efforts. He currently serves on the university’s Cardinal Anti-Racism Task Force and the School of Medicine Anti-Racism Task Force.

Chenault’s outreach activities and support of UofL initiatives also includes international service in the nations of Ghana and Senegal in West Africa, where he trained medical professionals, librarians and health sciences students, and in Panama, where he instructed undergraduate students on the history of U.S. diversity. In addition to his academic career, Chenault’s creative work in the performing arts as a musician, composer, playwright and producer spans five decades and includes commissions from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Composer’s Forum, the International Society of Bassists and several prominent U.S. orchestras. His compositions have been performed in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.

 

 

Jan. 25, 2021