Seed Grants 2017

UMB News Release, October 4, 2017

Utilizing peer-recovery advocates to implement an evidence-based intervention to decrease substance use among low-income minority adults

Kelly Doran (UMB, School of Nursing) and Julia Felton (UMCP, College of Behavioral Social Sciences)

Substance use disorders are associated with a range of impairments including physical and mental health problems, as well as difficulties with work, school and interpersonal relationships. Despite the devastating toll of these disorders, many individuals in low-resource communities do not receive effective treatment services, due to a lack of access to evidence-based therapies and trained service providers. The current project will evaluate the effectiveness of training peer recovery coaches to disseminate an evidence-based substance use intervention at a community center for homeless and low-income individuals in Baltimore. Working collaboratively, researchers at UMD and UMB seek to evaluate this novel service-delivery method and ultimately improve access to care for vulnerable community members.


Local engineering of the lymph node microenvironment in non-human primates to support translational therapies targeting autoimmunity and transplant rejection

Richard N. Pierson (UMB, School of Medicine), Agnes M. Azimzadeh (UMB, School of Medicine), Jonathan S. Bromberg (UMB, School of Medicine), and Christopher M. Jewell (UMCP, School of Engineering)

Lymph nodes are tissues that coordinate immune function, balancing the inflammatory responses needed to fight infection and the regulatory mechanisms that prevent the body from attacking one’s own cells and tissues. The latter, self-attack, is the underlying problem of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, and a major obstacle for skin and organ transplantation. To combat this challenge, we have pioneered an approach to reprogram the local environment of lymph nodes using degradable polymer depots. A single treatment with these immunotherapeutic particles prevents and reverses disease in mouse models of multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes without the immunosuppressive effects hindering existing therapies. During this seed project we will push toward clinical translation by next testing if lymph node depots promote lasting and specific immune tolerance in non-human primate models of inflammation and transplantation.


Noninvasive and Direct Imaging Methods for Characterizing Protein Aggregates in Biologics

Bruce Yu (UMB, School of Pharmacy) and Taylor Woehl (UMD, School of Engineering)

Protein-based drugs suffer from poor stability and shelf life and new analytical methods are needed to inspect these drugs throughout their lifetime. This project develops two new analytical technologies to fill these gaps: (1) noninvasive product inspection and (2) monitoring of sub-visible protein aggregates. The noninvasive technology, based on water proton nuclear magnetic resonance, makes it possible for the first time to collect data on every vial of therapeutic protein solutions at both point-of-release and point-of-care. Direct visualization of protein aggregates in drug formulations using liquid cell transmission electron microscopy enables characterization of the size, morphology, and structure of non-visible protein aggregates in drugs without any sample modification. We expect these new approaches will fill current regulatory gaps in assessing stability of therapeutic proteins and provide new on-line and at-line process analytical technology.


Assessing Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Willingness of African Americans in West Baltimore and Southern Prince George's County to Participate in Genomics Research

C. Daniel Mullins (UMB, School of Pharmacy) and Stephen B. Thomas (UMCP, School of Public Health)

In order to understand the benefits and risks of health interventions across diverse patient populations, it is critical to have diversity among the study population. However, engagement of African-Americans in health research is challenging because of the profound distrust tied to historical inequality and misconduct in well-known studies such as the Syphilis Study at Tuskegee and the more recently told story of Henrietta Lacks. New and innovative approaches to engage African Americans and other under-represented groups must be proposed and explored. We propose to conduct 100 Family Health Histories (FHH) augmented by a set of questions regarding perceptions of precision medicine, genomics, and biological specimens. The FHH has been shown to be an effective health promotion intervention and to be highly predictive of mortality and morbidity. This research is a first step in partnering with community members to understand how best to respectfully engage African Americans in health research and activities such as NIH's All of US initiative.