News Release

Six North Carolina institutions collaborate to advance kidney, urology, hematology research

Ronald Falk, MD, at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, is the lead principal investigator of a five-year, $6.15-million NIH to advance the science of nephrology, hematology, and urology and to train the next generation of researchers.

Grant and Award Announcement

University of North Carolina Health Care

Collaboration in medicine is common; a partnership across three subspecialities and six institutions, not so much.

The NC KUH Training, Research, Innovation, Outreach (TRIO) Program is exactly that. Nephrologists, urologists and hematologists from universities across the state will work together to advance the science of these fields and train the next generation of research professionals. The participating institutions include the University of North Carolina, Duke University, Wake Forest University, NC A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, and Winston-Salem State University.

Dr. Ronald Falk is the Lead Principal Investigator of the U2C/TL1 $6.15M, 5-year, grant from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Drs. Anthony Atala and Thomas Ortel are co-Principal Investigators with Dr. Falk on this award.

“This is an exciting and innovative opportunity that brings trainees across different disciplines and institutions together to foster academic and professional development.  The breadth of opportunities that will be offered through the NC KUH TRIO program will facilitate expansion into new areas, opening doors to new connections previously not considered and supporting development of long-term collaborations,” said Dr. Ortel.

The award has three core components:

Networking (U2C)

An integrated community where trainees, who are supported by the TL1 and other NIH training mechanisms, can learn from each other and other professionals will be fostered. Trainees will have a platform to communicate about their science. Community outreach programs, targeted towards undergraduate programs and local high schools, will be developed to promote career opportunities in kidney, urology and hematology research. One goal is to have researchers better reflect the racial and cultural diversity of patientsffected by these subspecialty areas such as kidney disease and sickle cell disease.

Nephrologists Keisha Gibson, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine at UNC and Matthew Sparks, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke are the leaders of this core.

Professional Development (U2C)

Trainees will be emersed in a coordinated system where they will gain knowledge needed to navigate an independent research career pathway. Grant-writing, public speaking and businesses management skills geared for scientists will be taught. Cross-specialty collaboration will be promoted to expose trainees to innovative technologies, research faculty and projects across all TRIO institutions.

Prabir Roy-Chaudhury MD, PhD, Drs. Ronald & Katherine Falk Eminent Professor in Nephrology at UNC, James Yoo, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Wake Forest, and Allison Ashley-Koch, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Duke, are leading this core.

Training (TL1)

Each year ten pre- and/or post-doctoral trainees from scientifically diverse and underrepresented backgrounds will be trained. Training programs are set to develop research skills and encourage rigorous investigation under a team of mentors who are among the 70 TRIO faculty mentors from across the 6 participating institutions. TRIO mentors bring strengths across three overarching areas, basic and translational research, clinical/ epidemiological/health services, and technology development.

Susan Hogan, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at UNC, Steven Crowley, MD, Professor of Medicine at Duke, and Graca Almeida-Porada, MD, PhD, Professor in the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest are the leaders of this core.

Creating Bridges

Not only is the program aiding interaction between institutions, it is bridging gaps between clinical research from the three medical specialties at UNC, Duke and Wake Forest with experts in numerous fields, including from STEM programs such as bioengineering, biology and chemistry at NC A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, and Winston-Salem State University.

“This is a way for trainees to learn about the diseases associated with kidney, urology and hematology. It’s an opportunity to learn about what researchers are doing, and about the gaps that need to be explored in terms of improving patient care, which is the ultimate goal. We will also teach things like, how to develop and bring new technologies to be useful in patient care. It’s also a chance to get to know each other and to build innovative and new research teams. So, this program will bridge a lot of gaps across ingrained programs and across institutions,” Dr. Susan Hogan, Training Program Lead Principal Investigator, said.

Program coordinators include Jill Powell (UNC), Joan Schanck (WF), Lois Deve (NC A&T), as well as one from Duke. 

Contact Morgan Duerden at the UNC Department of Medicine for more information.

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