NEWS | September 27, 2016

Funding moves UC Davis scholars' research closer to the patient bedside


Preventing skin scarring with red light-emitting diodes and using small molecules in the breath to detect infections are just two of several innovative projects developed at UC Davis Health System that are moving closer to becoming new treatments and tools for improving patient care, thanks to the mentored research programs of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) and the Emergency Medicine K12 program. 

These novel projects began as ideas from junior faculty, senior fellows and clinicians who were interested in pursuing careers in academic medicine but needed to sharpen their skills in conducting rigorous clinical research and gathering the preliminary data to support their hypotheses.

Four former scholars in the CTSC’s mentored research programs have received K awards from the National Institutes of Health to direct their own independent research studies:

  • Jared Jagdeo, an assistant professor of dermatology who completed the CTSC KL2 program earlier this year, is pioneering a paradigm-changing model that is using visible red light to re-program skin function to prevent and treat fibrosis, a condition that affects over 100 million people worldwide annually. Skin fibrosis describes skin thickening and scarring, a defining feature in over 70 different diseases that range from immune-mediated scleroderma and chronic graft-versus-host disease to traumatic injury to the skin from burns or after surgery. Current approaches to treat skin fibrosis are expensive and have significant side-effects. The red-light approach is potentially safer, inexpensive, portable and easily used in conjunction with other therapeutic agents.
  • Bryn Mumma, an assistant professor of emergency medicine who completed a mentored research program in 2015, is working to develop best practices that improve outcomes for patients who have a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital environment -- the most common cause of death from heart disease in the U.S. Mumma’s research has found that there are important differences in clinical care and organizational culture among hospitals that affect patient outcomes, and her goal is to develop a set of best practices that can be implemented at hospitals nationwide.
  • Oanh Meyer, assistant professor of neurology, is working to reduce cognitive and mental health disparities for underserved populations. With a K01 grant from the National Institute on Aging and another from the Alzheimer’s Association, she is piloting a community-based intervention to reduce stress and enhance the health of Vietnamese families caring for someone with cognitive impairment by educating caregivers and providing them with resources.
  • Michael Schivo, assistant professor of internal medicine and former KL2 scholar, is investigating an approach that uses small molecules in a patient's breath to detect common and devastating viral infections, especially those that trigger flares of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung diseases. His goal is to enable the noninvasive diagnosis of infections, advance technologies that help patients diagnose infections at home, and better understand how infections interact with people.

“This is a huge accomplishment and a testament to the value of our CTSC mentored research programs, which give new investigators the protected time, training and expertise of experienced faculty who can guide them in all aspects of conducting innovative research,” said James Holmes, a professor of emergency medicine and director of the CTSC KL2 program, which focuses on developing excellence in patient-oriented research.

The mentors advise scholars on strategies to conduct a successful study, avoid pitfalls, get abstracts and manuscripts accepted and published, find grant funding and generate ideas for future studies, Holmes said.

The KL2 program has graduated 30 scholars who have gone on to receive 20 NIH grants worth over $18 million and with total grant funding now over $50 million.  The program allows scholars to tailor their experience in consultation with program leadership and their mentors. Applications for the next cohort of KL2 scholars are due December 1, 2016 and can be found on the CTSC’s Research Education, Training, and Career Development Program website.