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UConn Grants Offer Funds for Inter-Campus, Interdisciplinary Research

Six UConn Teams Receive Grants for Research Collaborations; Nearly $2 Million Distributed through Grant Program Since 2008

STORRS, Conn. -- Six teams of University of Connecticut researchers are
starting the academic year with $100,000 each under a grant program that
transcends department borders with seed money for interdisciplinary,
inter-campus research proposals.

The 2012 winners of UCIG Awards, or the University of Connecticut Health Center/Storrs and Regional Campus Incentive Grants, are conducting research that could yield important insights into diagnosing and treating conditions that affect millions of people worldwide.

They include some forms of cancer, tooth decay, back pain,
and a genetic disorder that causes morbid obesity and developmental problems
among children.

The six UConn research teams are sharing $100,000 each over
the next two years through the UCIG program, which has distributed nearly $2
million since it was launched in 2008. The program is intended to help UConn
scholars get their research projects on firm footing, putting them in a strong
position to compete for external funding through federal programs and other
grant sources.


“The common attribute the funded proposals share is that they are all
exceedingly innovative,” says Suman Singha, UConn’s senior vice provost and vice president for research. “This is seed money that is getting people from the campuses working together, collaborating together, coming up with innovative ideas and then taking them to the next level.”

The competition started in 2008 with single-year grants of $50,000 each to 11 teams. UConn changed the procedure in 2009 to create two-year grants for six winning teams, recognizing that the intensive lab work and other parts of the research often needs more than one year to blossom.

As in previous years, this cycle’s winning teams come from diverse
academic backgrounds, with at least one member on each team based at the Storrs and UCHC campuses. But they all have a major attribute in common: the desire to push scientific boundaries with potentially transformative work to benefit UConn’s research mission and society as a whole.

This year’s awards competition drew 44 short proposals from interested research teams. Eleven were invited to write and submit detailed proposals, and the finalists were selected this spring.

The research disciplines of the six UCIG winning teams’ members range from cell biology and medicine to biomaterials, pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry, and pediatric dentistry.

With 12 schools and colleges and more than 85 research centers and institutes, UConn invests more than $200 million annually in research.

The 2012 UCIG recipients and their research projects are:

  • Non-Invasive Near-Infrared Imaging of Tumor-Targeting Patient-Derived Antibiotics: Kevin Claffey, Cell Biology; Quing Zhu, Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • High-Throughput Screen to Identify Potential Therapeutics for Prader-Willi Syndrome: Kyle Hadden, Pharmaceutical Sciences; Stormy Chamberlain, Genetics and Developmental Biology.
  • Dentin Regeneration with Functional End-Capped Polylactic Acid (PLA) Scaffolds: Rajeswari Kasi, Chemistry; Mina Mina, Pediatric Dentistry; Jon Goldberg, Reconstructive Sciences; Liisa Kuhn, Reconstructive Sciences.
  • Overcoming Nano-Molecular Interactions to Achieve Anti-Cancer Efficacy from Nanoparticle Delivery Systems: Diane Burgess, Pharmaceutical Sciences; Liisa Kuhn, Reconstructive Sciences; Bryan Huey, Chemical Materials and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • Monitoring the Effects of Cancer-Association Mutations on Conformational Dynamics of DNA Mismatch Repair Proteins: Christopher Heinen, Medicine; Nathan Alder, Molecular & Cell Biology.
  • Controlled Growth Factor Release for Tissue Regeneration Using a Novel Affinity Hydrogel: Isaac Moss, Orthopedic Surgery; Yong Wang, Chemical, Materials and Biomolecular Engineering.

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