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Jason Blackard, PhD, associate professor of medicine, division of digestive diseases
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Jason Blackard, PhD, associate professor of medicine, division of digestive diseases
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Jason Blackard, PhD
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Stephen Strakowski, MD, senior associate dean for research at UC's College of Medicine, launches the Discovery Acceleration Initiative.
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Publish Date: 10/25/12
Media Contact: Dama Ewbank, 513-558-4519
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College of Medicine Study Section Names First-Round Award Winner

The UC College of Medicine Research Cabinet has named Jason Blackard, PhD, the recipient of the first College of Medicine Study Section award—a $10,000 prize given in recognition of the grant application submitted by Blackard and reviewed by the Study Section in September.

Blackard, an associate professor in the division of digestive diseases, will be able to use the award in support of his research program.

Blackard’s proposal examines the link between hepatitis C virus infection and the development of autoimmune thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland). Blackard’s work is part of a collaboration with Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, division director of digestive diseases at UC, and Yaron Tomer, MD, professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

"Dr. Blackard wrote a solid proposal for a new grant that got very good rankings from his reviewers,” said Marshall Montrose, PhD, chair of the College of Medicine Study Section. "This was especially difficult in this first round because there was only a short time between announcement of the program and submission of a proposal for review.”

The College of Medicine Study Section, formed in June 2012, is run similar to study sections at the National Institutes of Health and is aimed at supporting the refinement of scientific projects and grantsmanship prior to official submission of a grant application to a funding agency. The program is designed to improve grant-writing success for investigators at the College of Medicine.

"Close collaborators are excellent reviewers but may be ‘too close to the science’ at times to see potential pitfalls,” said Blackard. "Having outside reviewers who are interested in the research topic can provide an additional level of critical review. Soliciting comments from a broad range of reviewers also results in the grant writer having to more clearly articulate and answer the question: ‘Why did you take this experimental approach rather than that one?”

During the first round of the Study Section, 14 investigators expressed their desire to participate and seven grant applications were ultimately submitted for review.

"At the end of the day, if the College of Medicine is going to put forth money and personnel to generate more competitive grants, I am certainly going to take advantage of that opportunity,” Blackard said.

The College of Medicine Study Section is just one part of the $1 million Discovery Acceleration Initiative supported by the College of Medicine Dean’s Office, the Vice President for Research and the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The Initiative includes four unique programs aimed at supporting a wide range of faculty investigators, from junior investigators needing assistance with refining grant proposals and gathering preliminary data, to more established investigators needing access to core facilities and short-term funding to bridge the gap between grant application and grant award.

Montrose, who serves as chairman of the molecular and cellular physiology department and interim chair of pharmacology and cell biophysics, offered a tip for investigators pursuing Study Section review in upcoming cycle: Start early.

"Our reviewers are expecting a complete, polished proposal,” Montrose said. "The better the proposal, the better your chances are for getting good critique comments from the Study Section reviewers, for obtaining the Study Section award, and ultimately for getting that external funding.”

Notices of participation for the second round of Study Sections reviews are due Nov. 16, 2012. Download the details (PDF).


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