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Peter Walzer, MD, and Melanie Cushion, PhD

Peter Walzer, MD, and Melanie Cushion, PhD

Melanie Cushion, PhD, and Peter Walzer, MD
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Publish Date: 02/17/10
Media Contact: Katie Pence, 513-558-4561
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UC, VA Researchers Awarded Grants to Study Cellular Mechanisms Behind Chronic Illnesses

CINCINNATI—Six researchers from the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center have been awarded over $4 million in federal research grants to investigate chronic diseases that commonly affect veterans.


These U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs awards, called Merit Review Grants, require that researchers undergo a rigorous peer-review process, similar to that used at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Peter Walzer, MD, director of research at the Cincinnati VA and professor of medicine at UC, says these awards—which will be distributed over three to five years—are a huge accomplishment for those who earned them as well as the disciplines they represent.


“Five of these grants went to PhDs, or basic scientists, as opposed to MDs, which is rare in itself,” he says. “The national VA research program was developed to attract high-quality physicians; thus, most of the investigators—about 70 percent—are MDs. Basic researchers must first undergo a competitive process even before they are deemed eligible to submit grants.


“In the latest round, 11 grants were submitted and six were funded. Usually, only one in five researchers will receive funding—a 20 percent success rate. It speaks highly of our researchers and the work they are doing in Cincinnati.”


Researchers awarded grants include:


·         Rupak Banerjee, PhD, College of Engineering

·         Melanie Cushion, PhD, Division of Infectious Diseases

·         George Deepe, MD, Division of Infectious Diseases

·         Dan Hassett, PhD, Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology

·         Kenneth Wagner, PhD, Department of Neurology

·         Susan Waltz, PhD, Department of Cancer and Cell Biology


Their studies, which range in subject matter from cardiac, pulmonary and infectious diseases to breast cancer and stroke, are looking at the step-by-step cellular development of diseases to find out why they occur and what can be done to prevent them.


“All of these researchers have an interest in looking at the pathogenesis of these conditions and using this knowledge to help develop new targets and approaches to treatment and prevention,” Walzer says, noting that many of these chronic conditions affect veterans but that this research also applies to the general population.


He adds that this funding creates exciting opportunities for collaboration by university and VA-based faculty that may result in more medical advancement than could be achieved by investigators working alone.


“This diverse group of researchers and their specialties truly speak to the expertise present at the VA and at UC,” he says. “These awards provide a win-win situation for both institutions and create a standard of research excellence for not only Cincinnati but also for the Tristate.”

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