Throughout 2013 and what has passed of 2014, more than 20 IU faculty members have received grants through the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute as seed funding for their research.
Professor Kenneth Nephew in the medical sciences program and professor Yves Brun in the department of biology are two IU faculty members who received grants last fall.
“It’s a really good way to get some seed money to do research,” said Yvonne Lai, the Indiana CTSI navigator in Bloomington of the grant program.
Lai also said the grants are rather competitive.
Brun received a grant to pursue research on how bacteria create microfilms, or layers of bacteria stuck to surfaces, such as the layer of slime that clings to the rocks in a creek bed.
He works with Arezzo Ardekani of the University of Notre Dame, whose expertise lies in physics and engineering.
Brun said he and Ardekani are looking to see how the creation of a microfilm starts by looking at how bacteria know to stick and the mechanism for sticking.
“To stick or not to stick, that is the question,” he said.
Brun said much of the value of CTSI is that it brings together disciplines, as it has with him and Ardekani.
Ardekani developed a computational way of looking at the creation of microfilms from which she can construct models. This can lead to more testing, which leads to more models.
There are practical applications to Brun’s work as well. Microfilms are more resistant to antibiotics and can build up on medical implants such as catheters.
Increased knowledge could also lead to the creation of adhesives that can hold to wet surfaces.
“Bacteria solved that problem a long time ago,” he said.
Brun said he hopes his research can lead to a larger grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Nephew’s research has received exactly that. He has looked into the same question for about 14 years.
“There’s no FDA-approved, second-line therapy for ovarian cancer, but unfortunately most women develop resistance to the currently used therapies,” he said.
Nephew works alongside Jean-Cristophe Rochet from Purdue University.
The survival rate for ovarian cancer has not changed much in the past three decades, Nephew said, and the fact it has the ability to become drug resistant has a lot to do with this.
“We’re working with a sense of urgency,” he said.
Nephew said the results thus far have been promising and have been well received.
While the CTSI grant is a two-year program, he said he hopes to have their continued support. His NIH grant will last for five years.
He said seed-funding grants like CTSI’s are critically important to continuing necessary research.
“It’s very important,” he said. “I can’t say enough how important it is.”