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Research

Grants and Awards - January 1, 2020 to Present


Assistant Professor Alexandra Vohs, PsyD  Receives a $15,361 Innovation Award 

Alexandra Vohs, PsyD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Psychologist for the Center on Developmental Disabilities in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $15,361 award from the Council on Developmental Disabilities to design, revise and conduct ongoing evaluation of the initial and long-term outcomes of the Partners In Policymaking (PIP) and other such training programs of the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. This evaluation leads to annual refinement of topics, presenters, and teaching methodologies.  This award will support a project titled, “Leadership Institute Activities Evaluation.”


Professor Toni Whitaker, MD, Receives a $623,558 training award for Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities (LEND) 

Toni Whitaker, MD, Professor and Division Chief in Developmental Pediatrics, and LEND Program Director at the UTHSC Center on Developmental Disabilities, in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received $623,558 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Federal Consolidated Programs.  There is a national need to improve health outcomes in children with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (NDD), including autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Health disparities persist with poorer outcomes associated with poverty, minority status, and state of residence, particularly the states of the Deep South. There is a need to address these outcomes and disparities in the general population and in children with NDD/ASD. The Universal Goal of this LEND project is to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (NDD), with special attention to autism spectrum disorders (ASD), through preparation of graduate level trainees, enhancing skills of practicing professionals, and empowering families. Trainees are prepared to command leadership roles and to increase the capacity of communities to evaluate, diagnose, and treat children with NDD/ASD.  This is the 29th year of renewal for this important Program.


Professor Toni Whitaker, MD, Receives a $20,000 subaward for Autism Intervention Research Network 

Toni Whitaker, MD, Professor and Division Chief in Developmental Pediatrics, and LEND Program Director at the UTHSC Center on Developmental Disabilities, in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received $20,000 from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).  This is to establish and maintain an interdisciplinary, multicenter research network for scientific collaboration and infrastructure-building focused on increasing the life expectancy and quality of life for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. This award will support a project titled, “Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P)”. 


Assistant Professor Joseph Pierre, PhD – Contact PI - Receives $423,292 from NIH in an R21 over 2 years as a Multi-PI grant with Ankush Gosain, MD, PhD, Associate Professor (Surgery and Pediatrics)

Joseph Pierre, PhD, Associate Professor in Pediatric Obesity and Neonatology in the College of Medicine and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $423,292 R21 award from The National Institutes of Health (NIAID) to study and model host-fungal interactions in Hirschsprung-Associated Enterocolitis.  HAEC is a life-threatening complication of Hirschsprung Disease (HSCR).  HAEC affects 30-60% of infants with HSCR and carries a mortality rate of 5-10%.  The long-term goal is the define the pathophysiology of HAEC and develop novel therapeutic approaches that reduce morbidity and mortality in HCSR patients. This award will support a project titled, “Modeling Host-Fungal Interactions in Hirschsprung-Associated Enterocolitis.”


Associate Professor Amali Samarasinghe, PhD Receives a second $75,000 Innovation Award

Amali Samarasinghe, PhD, Associate Professor in Pediatric Pulmonology, Plough Foundation Endowed Chair of Excellence and Director of Pediatric Asthma Research Program in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a second $75,000 award from the American Lung Association for her outstanding research. This study is to determine the full breadth of the immunologic parameters in the allergic setting that govern immune defenses to invading respiratory pathogens.  This award will support a project titled, “Influenza Virus Promotes Eosinophil Appetite for Bacteria.”


Professor J. Carolyn Graff, PhD, RN, FAAIDD Receives $263,195 in grant supplements for the UTHSC Relative Caregiver Program

Carolyn Graff, PhD, RN, FAAIDD, Professor in The College of Nursing, Chief of Nursing in the Center on Developmental Disabilities – Department of Pediatrics, Director of the Ph.D. Program in Nursing Science at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received $263,195 in two supplemental Grants from the Tennessee Department of Children Services for the UTHSC Relative Caregiver Program.  This established UT Program is for people who have custody of and are raising other family member’s children and helps to provide emergency aid as well as a foundation of supportive therapeutic groups and focused trainings through a network foundation partnership within their communities.  These two small supplemental grants were directly focused on COVID relief and Cares Act assistance for the underserved and underfunded families who were impacted during the pandemic with loss of jobs and increased food insecurity with children not being in the school classrooms.


Associate Professor Bruce Keisling, PhD, FAAIDD Receives a $59,701 grant for promoting access to COVID-19 access vaccines for people with disabilities

Bruce Keisling, PhD, FAAIDD, Associate Professor in Developmental Pediatrics, Executive Director and Shainberg Professorship at the Center on Developmental Disabilities (CDD), Director-University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $59,701 grant from The  Administration for Community Living.  This award allows he and his team increase COVID-19 vaccine access for people with disabilities, including outreach to I/DD community stakeholders (e.g., TN Council on Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Independent Living).


Professor Robert L. Davis, MD, MPH Receives $40,000 Subaward to link and explore sickle cell clinical data across partnering institutions to allow healthcare utilization and outcomes tracking.

Robert L. Davis, MD, Governor’s Chair & Director of the UTHSC Center for Biomedical Informatics, Division of Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $40,000 subaward from the University of Memphis via The Center for Disease Control.  This project is to lead efforts to link sickle cell clinical data to various data sets from Tennessee Medicaid data and the Tennessee Department of Health. To also establish data sharing agreements with partnering institutions, construct the core dataset, and co-author key program guidelines.  This is with the goal of achieving further research funding with which the team can facilitate the linkage of EMR data to the core dataset to further explore the healthcare utilization and outcomes of patients with sickle cell disease. This award will support a project titled, “Tennessee Sickle Cell Disease Surveillance Program”.


Professor John Bissler, MD Receives $20,000 Seed Grant to obtain insight into possible Extracellular Vesicles (EV’s) and their role in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex

John J. Bissler, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Federal Express Chair of Excellence, Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $20,000 seed grant from the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance to obtain additional insight into how the disease manifestations develop.  He has identified significant differences in EV’s produced by cells and seeks further insight into possible EV roles in disease phenotype, including renal and lung diseases.  This award will support a project titled, “Roles of Extracellular Vesicles in TSC”.


Associate Professor Hitesh Sandhu, MB, BS, MRCPCH Receives $14,398 as a participating NIH Subaward Clinical site to consent patients for ARDS in Children and ECMO Initiation Strategies

Hitesh Sandhu, MB, BS, MRCPCH, Associate Professor in Pediatric Critical Care in the College of Medicine and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $14,398 clinical subaward from the University of Michigan to oversee the patient recruitment and data collection as to ARDS in children and ECMO Initiation strategies impact on Neuro-Development (ASCEND)


Assistant Professor Rebekah Shappley, MD Receives $6,250 as a participating NIH Cohort Clinical site to study Post-Intensive Care Syndrome outcomes

Rebekah Shappley, MD, Associate Professor in Pediatric Critical Care in the College of Medicine and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $6,250 clinical Subaward from the University of Pennsylvania to enroll a prospective longitudinal cohort study of patients undergoing >3 days of ICU therapies. The aim is to explicate the impact of pediatric critical illness over a two-year period to guide future intervention research to optimize child and family outcomes of PICU survivors.


Assistant Professor Aristotelis Astreinidis, PhD Receives $150,000 to develop strategies to eliminate tumor cells in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) and Sporadic Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM)

Aristotelis Astreinidis, PhD, Assistant Professor in Pediatric Nephrology in the College of Medicine and at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received $150,000 from the William and Ella Owens Foundation to develop strategies to eliminate tumor cells In TSC and LAM and expect that this work will help physicians to develop new treatments for these patients.  


Associate Professor Amali Samarasinghe, PhD Receives a $75,000 Innovation Award 

Amali Samarasinghe, PhD, Associate Professor in Pediatric Pulmonology, Plough Foundation Endowed Chair of Excellence and Director of Pediatric Asthma Research Program in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received $75,000 from the American Lung Association. This study is to determine the full breadth of the immunologic parameters in the allergic setting that govern immune defenses to invading respiratory pathogens.  This award will support a project titled, “Influenza Virus Promotes Eosinophil Appetite for Bacteria.”


Assistant Professor Heather Smallwood, PhD Receives an $113,129 SRA clinical contract to further study Mitobridge agonists

Heather Smallwood, PhD, Assistant Professor in Pediatric Research in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $113,129 clinical contract from Mitobridge/Astellas.  They propose to further examine a Mitobridge agonist, which showed effectiveness in reversing the cytopathic effects of influenza virus infection, and its effects on Coronavirus.  This award will support a project titled, “Mitobridge Clinical Project PPARd and Anti-Viral Therapy”.


Professor Toni Whitaker, MD, Receives a $94,000 subaward to provide support to Early Childhood State/Territorial Programs

Toni Whitaker, MD, Professor and Division Chief in Developmental Pediatrics, and LEND Program Director at the UTHSC Center on Developmental Disabilities, in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received $94,000 from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).  This is to support COVID-19 recovery and strengthen resilience skills, behaviors, and resources for children, families and communities. This award will support a project titles, “Enhance Support for Early Childhood Systems through Act Early Ambassador Program to Support COVID19 Recovery”.


Assistant Professor Webb Smith, PhD, Receives $143,267 in IPA’s to study deployment related exposures to airborne hazards

Webb Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor in Pediatric Obesity in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received 2 IPA’s from the Veteran’s Administration totaling $143,267. The focus of this study is evaluating the effects of veteran parental exposure to airborne hazards and burn pits while deployed on their offspring resulting in developmental and chronic health conditions in children. These awards support a project titled, “Understanding Military Families and the Veteran’s Role as a parent: Evaluating parental concerns about their children’s health and wellbeing”.


Assistant Professor Weiqiang Zhang, PhD Receives $304,000 to participate in an NIH R01 (Naren) studying AC6-CFTR complex

Weiqiang Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor in Pediatric Pulmonology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC, has received $304,000 over 4 years from Children’s Hospital Medical Center using his expertise in drug design, organic synthesis, assay development, protein-protein interactions, and high throughput screening for assaying protein-small molecule interactions.  This award will support a study titled, “Investigating the Mechanisms of Action of CFTR Correctors in Rescuing Delta F508-CFTR”.


Associate Professor Bruce Keisling, PhD Receives a $50,000 contract for Capacity Building and Program Evaluation

Bruce Keisling, PhD, Associate Professor in Developmental Pediatrics, Executive Director and Shainberg Professorship at the Center for Developmental Disabilities (CDD), Director-University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $50,000 contract from the Council on Developmental Disabilities.  This award allows he and his team to conduct a comprehensive review of collected and reported data, both quantitative and qualitative, as it pertains to all Council programs and activities for the current 5-year cycle of funding through the US Office of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.


Associate Professor Dia Kimura, MD, Receives $62,200 Clinical Research Contract for COVID research

Dia Kimura, MD, Associate Professor in Pediatric Critical Care in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $62,200 contract for clinical research from Boston Children’s Hospital.  This is to enroll, consent and collect information to study COVID-19 in US children in the PICFLU (Pediatric Intensive Care Influenza Unit.  This is a combination of shared information in a surveillance registry and a cohort study.  This award will support a project titled, “Understanding COVID-19 among critically ill children in the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigator’s (PALSI) Network”.


Associate Professor Tanjala Gipson, MD, Receives a $181,125 sub-award to participate in an NIH R01(at University of Memphis) studying Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC)

Tanjala Gipson, MD, Associate Professor in Pediatrics Center for Developmental Disabilities (CDD) in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $182,125 subaward to study early communication in TSC and its relation with autism (ASD).  TDC affects 1/6000 live births and is a neurocutaneous disorder resulting from a spontaneous or autosomal dominantly inherited mutation in either TSC1 or TSC2. This study is a precursor to additional grant applications to study infant vocal development as an early clinical biomarker of ASD.


Associate Professor Shalini Narayana, PhD, Receives a $50,000 award to study improved non-invasive mapping techniques for patients considering neurosurgery

Shalini Narayana, PhD, Associate Professor in Pediatric Clinical Neurosciences in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a $50,000 award from the American Epilepsy Society to create a consortium for standardizing TMS language mapping protocols and establishing best practice guidelines for using TMS in presurgical evaluation of language in children.


Professor Jeffrey A. Towbin, MD – Contact PI, Receives $2,518,220 from NIH in an R01 over 4 years as a Multiple PI grant with Enkhsaikhan Purevjav, MD, PhD, Associate Professor (Pediatric Cardiology), and Lu Lu, MD, Professor (Anatomy and Neurobiology)

Jeffrey A. Towbin, MD, Executive Co-Director of The Heart Institute, Chief in Pediatric Cardiology, St. Jude Professor and Chair of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Research, Vice Chair of Pediatrics for Strategy Advancement, in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received $2,518,220 from NIH as one of the first multidisciplinary collaborative efforts to identify modifier genes and molecular networks that modulate severity of MYPN induced cardiomyopathies using powers of combined reverse and forward genetics and system genetic analysis.

 

Last Published: Jul 14, 2021