William Miles, M’77, H’80, served as an external reviewer for the Pauley Pilot Research Grants Program.
Pauley Heart Center physicians and scientists have long sought novel solutions to improving cardiovascular health. Now, donors are helping to fund promising early-stage research through the Pauley Pilot Research Grants Program.
“Despite the global realization that cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, efforts to increase research funding to improve awareness, clinical outcomes and quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease continue to fall short of meeting the demands,” says Pauley researcher Fadi Salloum, PhD’05 (PHIS). “With continuous budget cuts to major funding sources including the National Institutes of Health, promising new and mid-career investigators, in particular, are facing major challenges to secure grant funding for innovative research.”
The pilot grants provide funding for research proposals that meet three criteria: an innovative idea to improve cardiovascular health, a project that is feasible in 12 to 18 months and the potential to attract additional funding.
The first grant applications were due on Sept. 19 — in honor of the birthday of heart center benefactor Stan Pauley. Housestaff alumnus Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., H’07, recruited an external review committee composed of alumni, retired faculty of the heart center and international experts.
William Miles, M’77, H’80, chief of electrophysiology at the University of Florida, calls serving on the committee “an honor.”
“All the institutions I have gone to have given me something in return,” he says. “MCV marked the beginning of my medical career. It provided a really broad exposure to all of medicine through an active emergency room and diverse patient population. If I’m invited to serve as a reviewer, I’ll always say yes. I’d love to participate again.”
Miles reviewed two applications and says he enjoyed seeing the type of research taking place in the heart center. “I was impressed with the quality of what I saw,” he says. “These were substantive, cutting-edge projects with application to everyday cardiology.”
Pauley Pilot Research Grants Program recipients (l-r): Drs. Salvatore Carbone, Lei Xi, Mohammed Quader and Stefano Toldo
In November, the program awarded four grants for a total of $112,229:
• Integrated in vitro-in silico-in vivo modeling of engineered tissue vascular growth, development and function, by Stefano Toldo, Ph.D., and Joao Soares, Ph.D. (School of Engineering), $37,229
• Unsaturated fatty acids enriched-diet to improve metabolic flexibility and glucose tolerance in obese patients, by Salvatore Carbone, M.S., and Francesco Celi, M.D. (Division of Endocrinology), $25,000
• Nutraceutical therapy for alleviating cardiotoxicty of cancer chemotherapy, by Lei Xi, M.D., $25,000
• Optimal preservation condition for the donation after cardiac death heart (transplant), by Mohamed Quader, M.D., and Stefano Toldo, Ph.D., $25,000
“The four projects are diverse in nature, ranging from a partnership between tissue engineering and small animal surgery to enhance coronary artery bypass graft surgery, dietary modifications to enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, nutraceutical therapy to alleviate cardiotoxicity of chemotherapy and attempts to increase the pool of potential donor hearts for transplantation,” says Salloum, who served on the internal review committee.
The projects began Dec. 1. The grants will allow the investigators to pursue their ideas and possibly glean important data that will make future proposals more competitive for external research funding.
“Excellent ideas submitted to the NIH and other federal funding organizations fall short of funding if not substantiated with strong feasibility and preliminary data,” Salloum explains.
If you would like to inquire about making a donation to the Pauley Pilot Research Grants Program or serving as an external reviewer, please contact Carrie Mills, senior major gift officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 828-0423.
Annual fund donations to the Pauley Heart Center were critical to funding the new program. An additional $115,000 also has been donated to the program by several individuals.
“The generosity of our donors is greatly appreciated,” Salloum says. “Numerous meritorious grant proposals often go unfunded due to the lack of sufficient funds.”
In the future, “we hope to further grow this program. Our goal would be to make sure that every meritorious proposal from a Pauley researcher gets funded by a pilot grant.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Beat, a publication of VCU Health Pauley Heart Center.