COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial now open for children ages 6 months to 11 years

Norton Children’s Research Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, to participate in COVID-19 investigational vaccine clinical trial for children ages 6 months to 11 years.
COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial now open for children ages 6 months to 11 years

The Norton Children’s Research Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, will participate in a phase 2/3 clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 investigational vaccine for healthy children ages 6 months to 11 years. The study will evaluate safety, tolerability and immune response in this age group. It is the only site in Louisville offering the trial and among 100 participating sites around the world.

“As of now, we do not have a vaccine that is authorized for use in children under age 12,” said Gary S. Marshall, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Norton Children’s and the UofL School of Medicine, and principal investigator for the Louisville trial. “Having a safe and effective vaccine for children will not only keep them healthy but also would facilitate a return to normal in terms of school and other activities.”

In the randomized clinical trial, two children will be assigned to receive the vaccine for every one child who receives a placebo. The study is blinded, meaning that no one initially will know which injection they receive. Parents and caregivers will be asked to track changes to the child’s health in an electronic diary, and children will have at least six in-person visits over a two-year period, some to include blood draws.

Children who are randomly assigned to receive the placebo will be given the chance to receive the active vaccine after six months; therefore, all children in the study ultimately will have the opportunity to receive the active vaccine. 

The vaccine being studied is the same one that has been authorized for people ages 12 and older. In adults, this vaccine demonstrated 95% efficacy against COVID-19, and as of May 11, 2021, nearly 140 million people in the U.S. had received at least one dose. Preliminary data show the vaccine to be safe in children as well as able to generate a strong immune response.

The research team plans to enroll about 100 local volunteers for the trial; the overall enrollment will be about 4,500. Children ages 6 months to 11 years who are generally healthy are eligible to be included.

"The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be very safe and effective in adults and adolescents," said Kimberly A. Boland, M.D., chief of staff, Norton Children's Hospital, and chair, UofL School of Medicine Department of Pediatriacs. "We have every reason to believe this study whill show the vaccine to be safe and effective in childrent and an important step forward for children's health and for protecting our communities."

Dr. Marshall is known for his work in vaccine development, advocacy and education. In fact, he has worked on many of the vaccines that children routinely receive today. The clinical trial team has responded to the pandemic, treating children with COVID-19 and its consequences.

“This is the most exciting vaccine trial I have ever been involved with, and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years,” Dr. Marshall said.

Parents and caregivers can sign children up to be considered for the trial by going to

UofL wastewater testing identifies new COVID-19 strain before traditional testing

University of Louisville research that uses wastewater to monitor the rates of COVID-19 infection was first to identify a variant in Louisville, alerting officials ahead of other testing methods and giving them valuable time to work to contain it.

UofL detected the variant, a Brazilian strain known as P.1, early in April in a wastewater sample from western Jefferson County. Once researchers received the results, they alerted the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness as well as the state, which confirmed a positive case in the same zip codes with different testing methods a week later.

“The ability to detect viruses early, such as in this case, gives officials more time to take precautions and contain their spread,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, professor of medicine and director of UofL’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, which leads the wastewater research. “With pandemics, every second counts. In as little as one week, the virus can spread significantly, and then it becomes much harder to contain. This work gives us more time and an opportunity for targeted testing.”

UofL researchers began testing wastewater last year as part of the Co-Immunity Project, a groundbreaking partnership to track COVID-19 in Louisville Metro.

The Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District has sent weekly samples from 12 sites representing multiple neighborhoods and five wastewater treatment facilities that aggregate the entire county.

Those samples are taken to the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine, where pharmacology and toxicology assistant professor Josh Fuqua and his team process the samples and isolate viral RNA, and to the UofL Genomics and Bioinformatics Core facilities, where computer science and engineering professor Eric Rouchka analyzes the virus sequences to detect variants.

UofL recently announced the expansion of this work, backed by an $8.6 million grant. That expansion goes one step further than previous work — from identifying whether disease exists in a neighborhood to estimating how prevalent it is there.

Bhatnagar said understanding that connection could “revolutionize the way we track and contain pandemics, and not just COVID-19.”

Rather than rely solely on direct testing, such as with nasal swabs, wastewater testing can give health departments another tool to gauge the severity of community infection and to identify areas where the infection is prevalent. The tool also is faster, more efficient and less invasive.

“This is cutting-edge work – and the fact that it’s being done right here in Louisville – right here at UofL – places us at the forefront of public health innovation,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “It shows we’re doing the work to keep our city and cities around the world safe.”

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% of Jefferson County residents in a recent poll saying they would like to be vaccinated.

“This is one more example of how UofL has led the charge in finding new and innovative ways to detect, contain and fight COVID-19,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “Developing these new, more efficient tools for tracking pandemics, such as wastewater monitoring, is a big step in advancing health for our community and beyond.” 

The Co-Immunity Project needs 2,000 residents to undergo random testing for COVID-19 infection and antibodies the week of May 17-23 as part of this ongoing research. To learn more, visit, call 833-313-0502 or email

UofL Post COVID-19 Research Clinic documents long-term effects of infection

Study adds to knowledge of how COVID-19 affects people over time
UofL Post COVID-19 Research Clinic documents long-term effects of infection

Louisville resident and podcaster A. Dale Josey is a participant in the UofL Post-COVID-19 Research Clinic

When Sophie Fritschner came down with COVID-19 on New Year’s Eve, she had a low-grade fever, cough and body aches. It took her a few weeks to get over the cough and congestion, but the 69-year-old resident of Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood has had no symptoms since.

For Catherine Gamas, it was a different story. Her symptoms were more severe and have lingered. She lost her senses of taste and smell and experienced extreme fatigue and confusion. Months after her diagnosis, the 56-year-old Clarksville, Ind., resident still has intermittent loss of taste and smell, dizziness, daily headaches and hair loss and said she bruises easily.

“I would do one thing and have to sit down. I could go down the stairs but not back up,” she said. “The hair loss is most distressing. It used to take two hours for my hair to dry normally. Now it’s 15 minutes at best.”

A. Dale Josey, a Louisville resident and podcaster, also reported symptoms that disrupted daily routines. He developed lethargy and weakness, had painful joints and was extremely cold. He also experienced blinding headaches, nausea and loss of taste.

“It was too intense to eat,” he said.

To help researchers better understand these and other short- and long-term effects of COVID-19, Fritschner, Gamas and Josey are participants with the Post COVID-19 Research Clinic at the University of Louisville. They are committed to furthering knowledge of post-COVID-19 conditions by sharing their COVID-19 experiences to help UofL researchers learn more about how the disease affects people differently and hopefully improve treatment for others during and after the illness.

For Josey, participation in the research clinic is essential “to add to the body of scientific research.” For the same reason he regularly donates blood (7 gallons of lifetime donations), Josey is participating to improve the health of the Louisville community.

The UofL Division of Infectious Diseases created the multidisciplinary research clinic to study the wide variety of symptoms and effects of COVID-19. Volunteer participants from Louisville and surrounding areas who previously were diagnosed with COVID-19 can participate in the research study to document and monitor their symptoms and health changes over time.

“We will conduct comprehensive mental and physical assessments to determine the many possible effects of COVID-19,” said T’shura Ali, Ph.D., M.P.H., a UofL postdoctoral associate who manages the research clinic. “We want to expand the knowledge of how the disease progresses, to help improve treatments and interventions – both when patients are initially sick and after – to define, measure and prevent the long-term effects of COVID-19.”

Post-COVID symptoms can be any change in quality of life, health status or symptoms that emerge after the infection. COVID-19 patients have reported a wide variety of symptoms weeks and months following their initial infections, but some of the most common include:

  • Decreased cardiac function (fast-beating or pounding heart, heart palpitations, chest pains)
  • Decreased lung capacity (difficulty breathing or shortness of breath)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Blood clotting issues
  • Decline in mental health
  • Intense migraines or headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog (difficulty thinking or concentrating)
  • Continued loss of smell or taste

Participants for the study from Louisville and surrounding areas age 18 and over who have had COVID-19, confirmed by a diagnostic test, are eligible to participate in the study whether they have experienced long-term symptoms following infection or had no additional symptoms. Vaccination status does not affect eligibility.

Researchers will record study participants’ health history and all their COVID-19 symptoms and health changes over time. They will record vital signs, conduct physical examinations and administer validated health assessments, vision tests, lung function tests and electrocardiograms (EKG). Study participants also will be asked to provide blood and urine samples at each visit. The data will be analyzed by a group of experts led by Julio Ramirez, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, including physicians and researchers in cardiovascular medicine, perioperative medicine, pulmonary care and critical care as well as clinical and translational researchers.

To further study decreased heart and lung function, some of the most common and severe symptoms associated with COVID-19, Jiapeng Huang, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, is conducting a sub-study of the research clinic’s participants, supported by Gilead Sciences.

“For this project, we will study the heart, lungs and blood vessels of individuals who have been ill with COVID-19 using ultrasounds done at the clinic. This research will establish the foundation for future preventive and therapeutic strategies,” Huang said.

“These participants are helping to contribute to clinical care, research and science in understanding the burden of disease to help guide progress toward better treatment and care, which ultimately will improve the Louisville community’s overall health,” Ali said.

All appointments and tests are free for the participants. Information will be used for research purposes only and will remain confidential. The research clinic does not provide treatment or referrals, but abnormal findings will be reported to the participants. Study visits are conducted every three to six months and participants are followed for approximately one year.

To learn more, visit the division website, email or call 502-852-8680.

M.D./Ph.D. Student Cancer Tech Startup Wins Inaugural Innovation Competition

A UofL student startup aimed at fighting cancer has won the inaugural CardStart innovation competition. 

The startup is MAC-BIO, led by MD/PhD student Jordan Noe in the Brown Cancer Center, which is developing a new cell-based therapy for the treatment of aggressive solid tumors. For winning CardStart, Noe will receive $1,500 to help him get his startup off the ground and his technology to market.

“CardStart has been an amazing experience in refining MAC-BIO’s business pitch and vision as well as helping us connect with potential mentors and investors,” he said. “CardStart’s support will be instrumental in helping us further advance our technology through our current pre-clinical studies.”

CardStart is a two-pronged, student-led event. In fall 2020, teams spent a whirlwind virtual weekend finding innovative solutions to health care problems and building startups around them. The top teams, including Noe, won mentorship and coaching, modest funding to develop their prototype and free registration for the 2021 spring cohort of LaunchIt, UofL’s 10-week entrepreneurial training boot camp.

In April, the teams competed again, pitching their ideas to a panel of seasoned judges. 

Samantha Morrissey, a medical student and graduate chair of the CardStart student organizing committee, said the event is meant to encourage students to think outside the box and gain hands-on experience innovating. 

See the full article by Baylee Pulliam here.

April 28, 2011

The team of Kenneth Palmer and other UofL and U.S. researchers receives DOD funding to develop and test nasal spray to prevent COVID-19

The University of Louisville received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a nasal spray that will prevent serious viral respiratory infections such as COVID-19 using Q-Griffithsin, a drug compound developed at UofL.

As Palmer explained, the idea is to deliver an antiviral agent to the location of the body where the virus is known to replicate first, the upper respiratory tract. Q-Griffithsin , an analog of the biologic griffithsin 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.

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, director of the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and member of the Brown Cancer Center, is leading the project, known as PREVENT-CoV.

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 and Sharon Hillier, at the University of Pittsburgh, Barry O’Keefe, at the National Cancer Institute and Donald Lo 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.

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

You may view the complete article by Betty Coffman here.



Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic recognized as an age-friendly health system

Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic recognized as an age-friendly health system

The UofL Trager Institute and the Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic

The Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic at the University of Louisville Trager Institute has been recognized as an Age-Friendly Health System by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The recognition acknowledges the clinic’s commitment to improve health care for older adults and comes just over one year after it opened.

“It is so exciting that the Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic received the Age-Friendly recognition so shortly after celebrating our one-year anniversary,” said Anna Faul, Ph.D., executive director of the UofL Trager Institute and the Optimal Aging Clinic. “This recognition serves as a testament to the impact we’ve made during our first year. We strive to be on the forefront of patient care for older adults and we look forward to continuing to provide every older adult with the best care possible as part of the Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative.”

As part of the Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative, The John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, are helping hospitals, clinics and other care settings implement evidence-based interventions specifically designed to improve care for older adults. 

The interventions are tested and adapted through participation in Age-Friendly Health Systems Action Communities. These collaborative entities are comprised of health care teams from across the country that are committed to sharing data and learning together. The teams work to implement best practices across emergency departments, intensive care units, medical-surgical units, general wards and primary and specialty care settings.

The Optimal Aging Clinic now joins more than 450 health systems working to make care for older adults even more tailored to patients’ goals and preferences and consistently of high-quality as part of the initiative, which is based on a series of practices focused on addressing four essential elements of care for older patients known as the 4Ms:

What Matters: Know and align care with each older adult's specific health outcome goals and care preferences including, but not limited to, end-of-life care, and across settings of care.

Medication: If medication is necessary, use age-friendly medications that do not interfere with What Matters to the older adult, Mobility, or Mentation across settings of care.

Mentation: Prevent, identify, treat and manage dementia, depression and delirium across settings of care.

Mobility: Ensure that older adults move safely every day in order to maintain function and do What Matters.

Joe D’Ambrosio, J.D., Ph.D., director of behavioral health at the UofL Trager Institute and Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic, says the Age-Friendly initiative also is infused in the organization’s Behavioral Health Services Organization.

“We are so happy to include this initiative in the work we do with our therapy patients,” D’Ambrosio said. “The 4Ms of the initiative align perfectly with the behavioral health interventions we share with patients in their efforts to age optimally and we are excited to build upon the progress we have made in our first year to continue to help older adults thrive as they age.”

Learn more about the Republic Bank Optimal Aging Clinic in a video created to celebrate the clinic’s first anniversary.

For more information or a tour of the Trager Institute and the Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic, please contact Lisa Warner, UofL Executive Director of Development at 502-852-7448.

UofL student teams innovate new healthcare technology in whirlwind weekend

University of Louisville student teams built startup companies to improve healthcare, from making nurse workflow more efficient to thinking of new therapies for tumors – all in the course of a whirlwind virtual weekend.

It’s part of a new student-led UofL virtual event called CardStart that asks teams to create innovative solutions to health care problems and build startups around them in just 48 hours.

The judges selected three winning teams, each of which will receive support to help them refine their ideas ahead of a finals competition, which will be presented to a panel of industry experts and health care leaders in the spring.  MAC-BIO’s (Team:  Jordan Noe, M.D., Ph.D. student) new cell-based therapy for the treatment of aggressive solid tumors was one of the three teams selected for this honor. 

Students worked on their ideas in between a jam-packed schedule of keynote presentations, coaching and workshops led by real-life founders and other experts.

“The students at UofL are full of creativity, energy and drive,” said Tammy York Day, chief executive officer of sponsor the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council. “They’re the next generation of our health care workforce — the innovators and doers. LHCC is proud to support CardStart and give those students an opportunity to tackle some real industry problems.”

Samantha Morrissey, a medical student and member of the CardStart student organizing committee, said the event is meant to encourage students to think outside the box and gain hands-on experience innovating. 

“This is a great and unique event at UofL that affords students the opportunity and possible financial support to explore entrepreneurship,” she said. “We want students to get creative and transform their ideas into real world technologies that could ultimately be developed into their very own startup.”

The full article by Baylee Putnam is available here.

When families hear that UofL’s Greg Barnes has a son with autism, the relief and connection of shared experience is immediate

When families hear that UofL’s Greg Barnes has a son with autism, the relief and connection of shared experience is immediate

Greg Barnes, left, says he and his wife Kay's, right, experiences as parents of a son on the autism spectrum help him as director of the UofL Autism Center. Their son Joshua is shown center.

For the past 25 years, Greg Barnes has worked with thousands of families to help diagnose, adapt to and overcome autism. Autism is personal to Barnes, whose son, Joshua, was diagnosed with the condition as a young child.

It was clear to Barnes, a pediatric neurologist with the UofL School of Medicine who is director of the UofL Autism Center, affiliated with the Norton Children's Autism Center, and his wife, Kay, that something was off when Joshua was a baby.

“He did not sleep at all, so he already had a sleeping disorder, which occurs in 60% of patients with autism,” Barnes said. “Secondly, very early on, besides speech delay, in the speech that he did have, he manifested what’s called a restricted interest.”

Restricted interest is a characteristic symptom where the child gets fixated on something they can’t shake.

Joshua was diagnosed with autism at age 4, when Barnes was in Massachusetts as a physician resident at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in 1997. At the time, he was completing a fellowship for advanced training in epilepsy.

“When I was in medical school, I’d never even heard of the term 'autism spectrum disorders,'” he said. “There was so little information then.”

“The only thing you knew of autism was ‘Rain Man’ with Dustin Hoffman,” Kay said, in reference to the 1988 film. “It was extremely hard because it’s a world in which the normal learning process is nonexistent. Your child doesn’t play with other children — they might just hit them, or push them away, or take something away from them. Having a child with autism feels very isolating.”

Using personal experience to help patients

As time went on, Barnes found himself seeing autism patients in addition to epilepsy cases. His personal journey allowed him to connect to the families. Before he knew it, Barnes was treating more autism cases than anything else. He was then asked to serve as a member of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.

“From a professional standpoint, I saw this as an opportunity to use my knowledge to contribute to the disease that my son had,” he said.

For the past seven years, Barnes has treated autism patients through Norton Children’s and the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He said his ability to relate to his patients and their families is very beneficial.

“You can look a family right in the eye, no matter whether you’re in the clinic or when you’re on Zoom, and say, ‘I have a 27-year-old son with autism.’ Then all of a sudden there’s this huge sigh of relief, sometimes audible, but certainly it’s on their face, of, ‘You know what I’ve been through,’” he said.

It also helps him develop a plan for care.

“I have always told people that having Joshua gives me an enormous advantage,” Barnes said. “I know the questions to ask. Also, parents aren’t afraid to tell me what’s really going on, so I get a better, more accurate history. Being able to take what I’ve learned from my own situation has been an enormous contribution to the care of my autism families.”

Advancements in autism treatment

When Joshua first was diagnosed, there were few therapies and services for autism. Fortunately, those options are growing.

“We’re looking at using machine learning and artificial intelligence to be able to diagnose autism,” Barnes said, “mainly to diagnose autism from a MRI scan, but also to be able to develop better treatment options from both behavioral data as well as genetic data.”

According to Barnes, treating autism also requires an approach that brings in specialist providers from many fields.

“Every single case of autism is different,” he said. “I think the major thing that’s in the future for treatment is using combination therapies. That includes trying to figure out the right combination of medications, behavioral therapy interventions or occupational therapy interventions, and speech therapy interventions.”

Hope for the future

Joshua continues to seek treatment for his autism, but he’s come a long way. He has a job through a UPS program for people with cognitive mental disabilities and spends his spare time playing video games, reading his Bible, and talking on the phone or Skype. He’s also learning some important life skills, like cooking and cleaning.

“Our dreams are the same as many autism families,” Barnes said. “We want our son to do well and be happy. It’s a daily challenge, but we see progress all the time. My goal is to help Joshua and all my patients live the best lives they can.”

Kay agreed.

“We hope that at some point Joshua will be able to live on his own, with support,” she said. “It’s important for us to know that he’ll be OK when we’re not around anymore.”

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.




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

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 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.