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Minnesota Partnership awards research grants for collaborative projects

Five Mayo Clinic researchers have received grants from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics in 2019. This is the partnership’s 16th year of spearheading new scientific ideas from Minnesota to improve health care for Minnesotans. The state-funded grants for these team science proposals total almost $5.2 million.

The five teams will initiate collaborative two-year projects that could transform the treatment of diseases that affect Minnesotans. Projects are selected based on the quality and rigor of the proposed research, importance of the medical need and potential of future commercialization. Each team includes investigators from Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. One requirement is that the projects must be truly collaborative. That is, these projects could not be pursued by either institution alone.

2019 award-winning projects

“Generation and Immune Protection of PD-L1 Designer Islets for the Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes”

Quinn Peterson, Ph.D. (PHYS ’17), Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering; Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism, & Nutrition, Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic; and Brian Fife, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

This team aims to develop a cell replacement therapy to restore insulin-producing pancreatic islet beta cells and reduce autoimmune attacks on tissue. Researchers will develop designer islet beta cells and arm these cells with molecules to protect them from attack by the immune system. Concept testing would occur first in animal models before potentially applying to human beta cells prior to transplant. The application shows promise as a cure for and prevention of Type 1 diabetes.

“Stress-Induced Exacerbation of Senescence-Associated Diseases”

Jan van Deursen, Ph.D. (P ’99), chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Mayo Clinic; and Alessandro Bartolomucci, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

The researchers will study senescent or malfunctioning cells in an individual’s tissues and organs to help determine the root causes of aging and age-related diseases. Experiments in mice indicate that drugs that kill senescent cells extend a healthy life span and protect against atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. The team will explore whether stress-induced senescent cells explain why those subject to psychosocial stress are increasingly prone to develop chronic diseases. The goal is to develop innovative treatments to prolong life and promote healthy aging.

“Retinal Hyperspectral Imaging: A Tool for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease”

Teacher of the Year: John Chen, M.D., Ph.D. (OPH ’14), Department of Ophthalmology

This team will focus on determining whether the retina — a developmental extension of the brain — can be used as a biomarker to identify and evaluate patients with preclinical and symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. The study proposes to unite hyperspectral camera imaging — using the spectrum of each pixel — developed at the University of Minnesota with two Mayo patient cohorts to monitor retinal changes. The study will compare the retinal scans with brain scans and dementia severity. The long-term goal is to develop a noninvasive, inexpensive population screening diagnostic tool that can detect early Alzheimer’s disease.

“Targeting the Gut Microbiome to Prevent the Increasing Incidence of Obesity in Immigrant Populations”

Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S. (GI ’10), Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic; and Dan Knights, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

The team aims to investigate whether changes in gut microbiome composition following immigration to the U.S. are important contributors to higher obesity rates among Hmong and Karen populations. A key component of the study is to collaborate with West Side (Minneapolis) Community Health Services to partner with Hmong and Karen communities. The goal is to gain insight into how one’s metabolism changes after immigration, and implement dietary and therapies in local immigrant populations to curb obesity rates.

“Defining Parameters and Performance Specifications for an Implantable CNS Drug Testing Device”

Terence  Burns, M.D., Ph.D. (NS ’16), Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic in Rochester
“Individualized Glioma Surveillance via Chromosomal Rearrangements in Cerebrospinal Fluid”

Researchers will study patients with glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor with no established cure. They will employ an implantable multicatheter device, which will allow for simultaneous drug delivery and assessment of effectiveness. The proposed technology can significantly affect advancing knowledge and understanding of central nervous system diseases, with a goal of accelerating the development of new therapies.

The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is a collaboration among the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the state of Minnesota.


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