Two $50,000 Research Grants Awarded Through the Center for Translational Medicine

Mark Grimes with 2 researchers in lab

The Center for Translational Medicine (CTM) at the University of Montana awarded two $50,000 pilot research grants to UM Faculty working on projects with the strong potential to impact human health. Last fall the CTM issued a request for proposals in translational medicine and the applicants submitted research proposals across a range of biomedical research discoveries. The best proposals were invited to pitch their projects to the CTM Faculty and a panel of Expert Reviewers at UM. Two projects were selected to receive the $50,000 pilot grant awards, Dr. Mark Grimes and Dr. Jack Nunberg.

Dr. Mark Grimes is a Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at UM. Dr. Grimes research project evaluated new and innovative methods of growing craniofacial cartilage from human stem cells. This innovative research discovery could have a profound impact on people suffering from birth defects or injuries of the face where reconstructive surgery is required. The new technique could enable three-dimensional printing of complex biological scaffolds allowing the patient’s own chondrocytes (cells that make cartilage) to form key structural features of the head and face.

Dr. Jack Nunberg is a Professor and Director Montana Biotechnology Center at UM. Dr. Nunberg’s research project is targeted towards the advancement of a vaccine candidate targeting Junín virus, an arenavirus that is endemic in rodent populations and can be transmitted to humans causing life threatening hemorrhagic fevers. Arenaviruses are an emerging pathogen recognized as a Category A priority pathogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The current attenuated vaccine (not approved in the US) is effective but not ideal for widespread use due to safety concerns. Dr. Nunberg has figured out how to improve the safety of this vaccine and the CTM Pilot Grant will allow him to take the next step towards advancement of this new vaccine candidate.

The CTM was founded in 2016 to establish a cross-department and -college multi-disciplinary research center assisting faculty, staff and students in the translation of research ideas from bench to bedside. The Center promotes the expansion of educational programs in translational medicine and career development opportunities in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. The Center is expanding entrepreneurial programs at the University and building a new community to meet challenges and adapt to the changing healthcare/biotech employment and research funding landscape. This new culture and community will help prepare students for a career in the biotechnology or health care industry and open doors to new sources of revenue in support of translational research and education at UM.

Dr. Scott Whittenburg, UM Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship, was instrumental in in helping establish the Center in 2016 and the University is seeing the benefits through increased research funding, new opportunities for students and international recognition for the biomedical advancements being discovered by researchers at UM. “Dr. Evans and his group in the CTM have far exceeded my expectations in driving translational medicine and commercialization at UM. The Center has become the focal point for faculty across several departments at the University in this active area of research.”

For more information about these projects or other CTM programs please contact the Center Director, Dr. Jay Evans, jay.evans@umontana.edu.