Stempel College Research Team is Perfect in Receiving NIH Grant

A proposal submitted by a team of researchers led by Dean and Professor Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte received a perfect impact score of 10, ranking in the top one percentile of all grants submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant is to study a novel interaction of two proteins (Translocator Protein 18 kDa (TSPO) and NADPH Oxidase (NOX2)] in microglia, brain cells that are involved in neuroinflammation.  Entitled Peripheral BDZ receptor: A Biomarker of Neurotoxicity (ES007062-20), the research project has received continuous NIH funding for 20 years and has now received five years of additional funding for a total of $2.31 million. BBE Lab Photo

“We are delighted in receiving such a wonderful score,” said Guilarte.  “This research has the potential to open new therapeutic treatments for mitigating brain inflammation, a common mechanism in many neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.” 

The NIH study section summary of the grant proposal indicated that “the proposal was perceived as exciting, highly innovative, extremely significant, with an exceptional investigative team, and outstanding environment”.

Guilarte stated that “scientific breakthroughs can be accomplished when we bring together groups of outstanding scientists as we have done in this case.”  Besides Guilarte, the other essential members of the research team are Associate Professor Dr. Jeremy Chambers, Assistant Professor Dr. Diana Azzam, and Professor Dr. Kim Tieu, all members of the department of Environmental Health Sciences at Stempel College. 

The dean commented that he is particularly proud bringing together the talent of two young outstanding faculty members, Drs. Chambers and Azzam, as well as a senior faculty, Dr. Tieu, from different disciplines to create such an outstanding research team. Their various specialties will help to bring new and fresh perspectives to the project.

“As an active grant reviewer for the NIH for so many years, I can’t recall having seen a grant with such a perfect score,” said Tieu. “To be awarded with this exceptional status, the panel of highly critical experts must unanimously agree that the proposal is outstanding in all five criteria: significance, innovation, investigators, research approach and scientific environment. This is truly a testament to Dr. Guilarte’s scientific excellence and I am very fortunate to be part of it.”

Stempel College has created an environment of collaboration, collegiality and respect for peers, which is the glue that brings researchers together with a common goal.  It is important to note that the college practices using the concept of open research labs, where researchers are in close proximity to each other. That proximity leads to spontaneous discussions and sharing of new ideas, methods, and expertise that led to this collaboration. 

“I believe the score is a testament to Dean Guilarte’s leadership and team-building abilities,” said Chambers. “He assembled a group of individuals with complementary expertise to maximize the investigative rigor necessary to define the function of TSPO. His approach is a blueprint for establishing successful research programs.”

Additionally, Azzam stated, “I am very fortunate to be a part of this outstanding research team. As a junior investigator, this grant is a stepping-stone towards successfully competing for subsequent NIH grants, given the highly competitive funding climate. Dean Guilarte has unequivocally provided me with an excellent environment that is extremely conducive for my career growth.”

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