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College of Medicine faculty receive grants for cancer, addiction, community health research

Penn State College of Medicine researchers secured more than $15.3 million in grant funding from 110 awards during the months of October, November and December 2020. They will use the funds to study the role of genetics in causing disease, further develop a child abuse prevention online learning program and increase influenza vaccination in Hispanic communities.

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Claudia Nicolae, PhD

Claudia Nicolae, PhD

The role of PARP10 in alleviating replication stress and promoting cellular proliferation and tumorigenesis

Investigator: Claudia Nicolae, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology

Grant amount: $359,784 ($1,798,187 anticipated through January 2025)

Awarded by: National Cancer Institute

Goal: Nicolae will investigate how overexpression of a gene called PARP10 causes cancer cells to proliferate. By understanding the cellular mechanisms of how PARP10 promotes cancer growth, researchers could develop new, targeted cancer therapies.


A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Dajiang Liu

Dajiang Liu, PhD, MA

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Bibo Jiang

Bibo Jiang, PhD, MA

Methods to identify, validate and interpret GWAS Loci in multi-ethnic meta-analysis

Investigators: Dajiang Liu, PhD, MA, associate professor of public health sciences and biochemistry and molecular biology teaching position; Bibo Jiang, PhD, MA, assistant professor of public health sciences

Grant amount: $518,091 ($575,657 anticipated through December 2021)

Awarded by: National Human Genome Research Institute

Goal: Many current genetic studies use samples from people with European ancestry. One focus of human genetics research in the next decade is to expand large-scale genetic studies to diverse human populations in order to empower genetic discovery and elucidate disease origins. Liu will collaborate with Jiang to develop powerful and computationally-efficient methods and apply them to a large scale multi-ethnic genetic study of smoking and drinking addiction, which is a major risk factor for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disorders.


A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Liza Rovniak

Liza Rovniak, PhD, MPH

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Christopher Sciamanna

Christopher Sciamanna, MD, MPH

Integrating patient-centered exercise coaching into primary care to reduce fragility fracture

Investigators: Christopher Sciamanna, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and public health sciences; Liza Rovniak, PhD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and public health sciences

Grant amount: $491,758 ($13,950,066 anticipated through December 2021)

Awarded by: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Goal: Rovniak will use supplemental funds to adjust an ongoing group exercise clinical trial for senior citizens to public health guidelines enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will pivot from a live, in-person exercise class to virtual exercise groups that use a home exercise DVD. Rovniak and Sciamanna will assess whether the virtual exercise groups can promote exercise and improve clinical outcomes in seniors and also examine the how local and regional levels of risk for COVID-19 exposure affect participants’ level of involvement in the program.


A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Benjamin Levi

Benjamin Levi, MD, PhD

Head Start and iLookOut

Investigator: Benjamin Levi, MD, PhD, professor of humanities and pediatrics

Grant amount: $395,800

Awarded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Goal: These funds support creating a new version of the iLookOut for Child Abuse online learning program that will be disseminated to Head Start programs nationwide. iLookOut has been shown to improve knowledge and attitudes about child abuse and reporting in both Pennsylvania and Maine, and will now help prepare Head Start staff to protect more than 950,000 infants, toddlers and pre-school aged children enrolled in Head Start programs in all U.S. states and territories. This initiative will collect new data on iLookOut’s effectiveness and establish a national standard for mandated reporter training.


A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Jennifer Kraschnewski

Jennifer Kraschnewski, MD, MPH

Better Together: Enhancing Hispanic Health in Rural Pennsylvania through Healthy Lifestyle Strategies

Investigator: Jennifer Kraschnewski, MD, MPH, vice chair for research, Department of Medicine; professor of medicine, public health sciences and pediatrics

Grant amount: $182,832 ($2,376,979 anticipated through September 2023)

Awarded by: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Goal: This funding supports Penn State College of Medicine’s continued efforts to increase influenza vaccination in the Hispanic communities in Lebanon and Berks counties through the CDC REACH program which educates communities, trains community health workers and increases vaccination opportunities. Flu vaccination in this group is critical given that they are also disproportionately affected by COVID-19, at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 and are at high risk for flu infection.


A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Nikolay Dokholyan

Nikolay Dokholyan, PhD, MS

Nanoscale programming of cellular and physiological phenotypes

Investigator: Nikolay Dokholyan, PhD, MS, G. Thomas Passananti Professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Pharmacology; professor of biochemistry and molecular biology

Grant amount: $664,882 ($3,427,467 anticipated through December 2024)

Awarded by: National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Goal: This project seeks to design artificial proteins that respond to changes in pH and temperature in cellular environments, called nanoscale computing agents. The development of this technology may help researchers study biological systems in greater detail and lead to the development of precision therapeutics for disease.


Other awards

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