Announcing the 2022 ASPIRE Program Team Awards
The School of Medicine’s Program to Advance Physician Scientists and Translational Research is pleased to announce its 2022 CU ASPIRE Program awardees. The CU ASPIRE Program is designed to facilitate collaborative research groups working on
unmet needs in basic science or clinical medicine that can only be addressed by a team of investigators. The program supports milestone-driven collaborations between investigators across campus with the goal of submitting a program project or
other large multi-investigator grant proposals to external funding agencies. The CU ASPIRE program is co-led by David Schwartz, MD, and Lori Sussel, PhD and will support the following projects.
Team 1: Interaction of IFN/IL-36, succinate and palmitic acid pathways in obese asthma
team led by Dr. Holguin seeks to understand the interactions of IFN-g/IL-36, succinate and palmitic acid
pathways in the airways of obese asthmatics. This project is a collaboration
between the Severe Asthma Program at the University of Colorado, Anschutz
Medical Campus and National Jewish Health. The ASPIRE grant will catalyze an
already productive interdisciplinary collaboration between Chris Evans PhD,
Hong Wei Chu PhD, Max Seibold PhD and Fernando Holguin MD MPH, to understand
how obesity-related metabolic changes in airway epithelial cells link to
inflammatory and paracrine mechanisms that ultimately promote bronchial
Team 2: Mechanistic understanding and therapeutic targeting of TBI-caused vision loss
The unifying scientific theme of the team led by Dr. Nagaraj is to understand molecular mechanisms and develop targeted therapies to prevent TBI-caused RGC death with the eventual goal of preserving vision in TBI patients. Their multidisciplinary project combines the expertise of three established investigators and is built on the findings from their ongoing collaboration. With the CU-ASPIRE funding, Drs. Nagaraj, Nam, Poleg-Polsky, and Huang will investigate mechanisms of vision loss from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and develop viral-based methods to preserve vision after TBI. They will also examine the role of excitotoxicity in TBI-induced retinal damage and the introduction of non-invasive visual acuity tests, as well as the efficacy and mechanisms of CtBP inhibitors in preventing TBI-caused retinal ganglion cell death.
Team 3: Mechanisms of immune protection and pathology by lymph node stromal cells
The team lead by Dr. Tamburini builds on established collaborations between CU Anschutz investigators (Tamburini, Morrison, Guthmiller, and Hesselberth) to (i) define mechanisms of interplay between LNSCs and immune responses, (ii) understand how viruses co-opt LNSCs to thwart immune responses, (iii) determine the consequences of antigen retention by LNSCs to B cell and T cell responses, and (iv) develop and apply the latest molecular tools to understand LNSC heterogeneity and function. The approaches will synergize to yield an in depth understanding of the consequences of LNSCs to immunity following infection and immunization.
Team 4: The Epithelial-Immune Landscape and Therapeutic Targets in Pulmonary Premalignancy
The team led by Dr. Miller is focused on identifying factors within the lung that determine the evolution of premalignant lesions to either spontaneous regression or progression to cancer. The primary objective of the program is to gain a mechanistic understanding of how alterations in epithelial progenitors and immune cells that occur during premalignancy determine long-term outcomes. These studies are powered by parallel investigation of: i) at risk patients, either followed for the natural history of lesions or enrolled in chemoprevention trials and ii) mechanistic studies using mouse models of lung carcinogenesis and ex vivo precision cut lung slices. By integrating a team of experienced investigators with complementary expertise and established collaborations, this program provides unique opportunities to gain cellular and molecular insights from patient trials (bedside to bench) and to identify new therapeutic targets to limit pulmonary premalignancy and reduce lung cancer risk (bench to bedside). The ASPIRE grant will promote new initiatives within the Colorado Pulmonary Premalignancy Program comprised of Moumita Ghosh, PhD (epithelial stem cell biology), Eric Clambey, PhD (Immunology), Dan Merrick, MD (molecular pathology), Meredith Tennis, PhD (cancer biology and preclinical models), Robert Keith, MD (mouse models and clinical trials) and York Miller, MD (clinical trials and premalignancy). Their investigators are members of the Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine Division, Department of Medicine (University of Colorado and Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC), and Departments of Pathology and Anesthesiology.