AB Nexus, an initiative to strengthen research collaboration between the CU Anschutz and CU Boulder campuses, is announcing its third call for proposals.
The initiative, which awarded $1.2 million of seed funding to 16 project teams in the first year of programming, sponsors new and existing collaborative team projects. New collaborative teams are awarded $50,000 to pursue innovative research ideas and build partnerships while $125,000 can provide existing collaborative teams the opportunity to expand current research efforts in new, strategic directions.
Notable research breakthroughs and impacts have already been realized through AB Nexus grant funding. The eight projects awarded in fall 2020, now halfway through the 12 month funding period, have reported significant advances highlighted below.
Enhancing surgical outcomes with 3D printed models
Combining an advanced understanding of multifunctional materials, automated 3D fabrication, and automated design methods that utilize a patient’s own medical images can provide surgeons with realistic patient-specific models that improve health outcomes. This personalized medicine approach enables realistic mechanical and morphological features that can revolutionize cancer surgery, for example, where defining the margins of tumors to be removed during surgery is critically important.
A working proof of concept has been established whereby the team, including principal investigators Nicholas Jacobson (CU Anschutz; Inworks Innovation Initiative and CU School of Engineering, Design, and Computation) and Robert MacCurdy (CU Boulder; Mechanical Engineering), successfully mapped radiodensity from patient medical images to a 3D printed object.
The results of this initial work have been submitted for publication and received an additional $130,000 in external funding. Working with numerous clinical collaborators across surgical disciplines has provided valuable review and important insights for future development. The next phase of this work will focus on evaluating existing materials as well as formulating new ones to determine appropriate multi-material mimics for complex biological tissues.
Identifying a cell-intrinsic cancer checkpoint
The biological and pathological features of cancer can depend on the developmental context of the cell type that is initially transformed. For example, certain chromosomal changes are associated with pediatric or adult leukemia, which each have distinct disease features.
The team, including principal investigators Patricia Ernst (CU Anschutz; Pediatrics, Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplantation Division and Pharmacology, School of Medicine) and Mary Allen (CU Boulder; BioFrontiers Institute), published preliminary data elucidating how the mechanisms and transformation of cells differ between embryonic progenitor cells (EMPs) and the corresponding adult bone marrow cells to result in leukemia. The findings suggest that EMPs have an intrinsic checkpoint that prevents transformations associated with leukemia.
A very large experiment subjecting cells to a pilot round of assays during various stages of EMP differentiation has recently been completed. This will be used as a basis to elucidate the timing and specific pathways that either activate or repress cell transformations that lead to leukemia. The team has been awarded $1.9 million in additional external funding to expand this work.
Calling all cross-campus collaborative teams
AB Nexus is formally announcing the third call for collaborative research proposals. Proposal tracks will remain the same, with new and existing collaborations eligible for $50,000 and $125,000, respectively. All research projects with the potential to impact human health are invited to apply.
In this cycle, there are also two special topics. Proposals that specifically address cancer research will be considered for co-sponsorship from the CU Cancer Center and AB Nexus. Additionally, co-sponsorship from the Renée Crown Wellness Institute and AB Nexus will aim to fund research proposals related to health and wellness of youth.*
AB Nexus will hold an informational session and a research blitz in conjunction with this round of the Research Collaboration Grant program. You can also register to be a reviewer.
Please contact ABNexus_SeedGrants@colorado.edu with any questions.
*Note: Special topics are subject to change from cycle to cycle. Is your department interested in co-sponsorship? If so, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.