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New Synergy awardees represent spirit of partnership in COVID-19 research

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Emory University’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) has named award recipients for the latest cycle of Synergy Awards and all 10 selected projects share a common theme: Advancing research on the new coronavirus.

The awards support joint projects among faculty at Emory University School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Winship Cancer Institute, and all other units within WHSC.

"In these unprecedented and challenging times, the importance of bridging disciplines is more critical than ever. The Synergy awards acknowledge the collaborative nature of scientific breakthroughs and harness the breadth of our research expertise," says Dr. Jonathan S. Lewin, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory University, and WHSC executive director.

Proposals for these awards are required to include faculty members with primary appointments in at least two different schools as co-principal investigators (Co-PI). The awards are intended to support new, highly innovative projects that are not yet funded or published and that have potential to generate scientific achievements of the highest quality and impact. The research also must have a high likelihood of external funding and advance the goals of the WHSC Strategic Plan.

“The synergy projects highlight Emory’s research strengths. They also address WHSC’s priority themes such as innovative discovery and transforming models of care,” says Dr. David Stephens, WHSC’s vice president for research.

Synergy Awards offer up to $100,000 for an award term of one year, with potential carryover to a second year under special circumstances. The awards are funded from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs with support from the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center Fund, Inc.

Since the Synergy Awards were initiated in 2016, nineroundsof Synergy Awards have been awarded to 65 projects totaling $6.14 million. The impact of these grants have cut a broad swath, from research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to outer space. They have resulted in 22 peer-reviewed papers in leading journals and many more are pending.

The 10 selected proposals and their investigators are as follows:

COVID-19 and the eye: Surveillance of ophthalmic disease, viral persistence and immune response 

  • Steven Yeh (Co-PI), MD (Medicine/Ophthalmology)
  • Carolyn Drews-Botsch (Co-PI), PhD (Public Health/Epidemiology)
  • Jesse Waggoner (Co-PI), MD (Medicine/Infectious Diseases)
  • Jessica Shantha, MD (Medicine/Ophthalmology)
  • Susi Linderman, PhD (Medicine/Microbiology and Immunology)
  • Laura Ward, MSPH (Public Health/Biostatistics and Bioinformatics)
  • Rafi Ahmed, PhD (Medicine/Microbiology and Immunology)

 Longitudinal surveillance of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in pediatric healthcare workers

  • Miriam B. Vos (Co-PI) MD, MSPH (Medicine/Pediatrics)
  • Travis Sanchez (Co-PI), DVM, MPH (Public Health/Epidemiology)
  • Claudia R. Morris, MD (Medicine/Pediatrics)
  • Andrés Camacho-González, MD (Medicine/Pediatrics)
  • Srikant Iyer, MD (Medicine/Pediatric Emergency Medicine)
  • Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD (Public Health/Epidemiology)
  • Mehul Suthar, PhD (Medicine/Infectious Diseases, Pediatrics)
  • Jens Wrammert, PhD (Medicine/Pediatrics)

Ethical challenges: Refining and implementing ethical and clinical guidance and practices in response to COVID-19 

  • Kathy Kinlaw (Co-PI), MDiv (Medicine/Pediatrics)
  • Sharon Pappas (Co-PI), RN, PhD (Nursing)

Investigating the impact of SARS-CoV2 virus on neural development using human iPSC-derived brain organoids

  • David Goldsmith (Co-PI), MD (Medicine/Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences)
  • Bradley Pearce (Co-PI), PhD (Public Health/Epidemiology)
  • Zhexing Wen, PhD (Medicine/Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences)
  • Erica Duncan, MD (Medicine/Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences)

Oral anticancer therapy non-adherence among metastatic breast cancer patients during a pandemic: A feasibility trial

  • Gelareh Sadigh (Co-PI), MD (Medicine/Radiology and Imaging Science)
  • Ilana Graetz (Co-PI), PhD (Public Health/Health Policy and Management)
  • Jane L. Meisel, MD (Winship Cancer Institute)
  • Ruth Carlos, MD (University of Michigan/Radiology)
  • Kate A. Yeager, RN, PhD, FAAN (Nursing)
  • Kristina Byers, Pharm D, BCOP (Winship Cancer Institute)

Prenatal infection with COVID-19: Effects on pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, the maternal-fetal immune response, and vertical transmission 

  • Martina Badell (Co-PI), MD (Medicine/Gynecology & Obstetrics)
  • Anne Dunlop (Co-PI), MD, MPH (Nursing)
  • Ravi Mangal Patel, MD (Medicine/Pediatrics)

COVID-19 and intimate partner violence: The effect of movement related restrictions on partner violence and traumatic injury in Atlanta, Georgia 

  • Dabney P. Evans (Co-PI), PhD, MPH (Public Health/Global Health)
  • Randi N. Smith (Co-PI), MD, MPH (Medicine/Surgery)
  • Amy Zeidan, MD (Medicine/Emergency Medicine)

A mixed-methods study of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease among African Americans living with HIV who receive HIV services at the Grady Infectious Disease Program (Ponce Clinic) and Emory University Hospital Midtown (Emory Midtown)

  • Lisa Flowers (Co-PI), MD (Medicine/Gynecology & Obstetrics)
  • Robert A. Bednarczyk (Co-PI), PhD (Public Health/Global Health)
  • Kimbi Hagen, EdD (Public Health/Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences)
  • Minh Ly T. Nguyen, MD (Medicine/Infectious Diseases)
  • Claudia E. Ordonez (Public Health/Global Health)
  • Adrian King, MPH (Public Health/Global Health)
  • Maja Besic (Medicine/Gynecology & Obstetrics)

Impact of COVID-19 state-level executive orders on incident partner violence and suicide: Assessing collateral health effects of non-pharmaceutical risk mitigation during pandemics 

  • Kathryn M. Yount (Co-PI), PhD (Public Health/Global Health)
  • Nadine Kaslow (Co-PI), PhD (Medicine/Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences)

Seroprevalence of COVID-19 within children

  • Mehul Suthar (Co-PI), PhD (Yerkes, Medicine/Pediatrics)
  • Jens Wrammert (Co-PI), PhD (Medicine/Pediatrics)

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