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Research roundup: Recent grants and publications for Emory faculty and staff
Research Roundup for May 2023

As an academic research institution, Emory’s faculty and staff conduct studies across every discipline, from the sciences to the humanities. From unequal healthcare in military veterans to women’s mental health curing the pandemic, this compilation of published research findings and the newest grant awards illustrates how Emory researchers are cutting a path toward groundbreaking discoveries.


Spotlight: Emory-led study examines quality of care for veterans with serious artery disease
New research led by Emory Healthcare, in partnership with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), shows a need for better medical interventions and more aggressive treatment for veterans with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a serious condition affecting an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. PAD is one of the leading causes of the 185,000 major lower extremity amputations that happen each year.

In a study published in JAMA Surgery, lead author Olamide Alabi, MD, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy at Emory School of Medicine, investigated ten years’ worth of health records from the U.S. Department of Veteran Health Affairs. To better understand what happened to more than 19,000 veterans who lost their limbs during the study period of 2010-20, Alabi and her team wanted to examine health care utilization in the year before amputation. They identified several factors that impacted the quality and intensity of care patients received prior to that major loss of limb, such as distance to primary care and geographic region.

Findings: Among their findings, they discovered veterans who lived 13 miles or more from their primary care physician were less likely to receive vascular screening, a step that can potentially lead to quicker intervention. Meanwhile, veterans living in the Midwest were more likely to undergo vascular screening in the year prior to amputation than those who lived in other regions.

PAD, which disproportionately impacts veterans, causes walls of the small arteries and capillaries to thicken, which reduces oxygen transfer, leading to tissue and nerve injury or damage along with a threefold increase in risk of heart attack, stroke and death. Individuals diagnosed with the most severe form of PAD have up to a 25 percent chance of requiring a limb amputation within one year after diagnosis.

However, limb amputation is also preventable through early diagnosis, monitoring and medical management, and surgical therapy. Alabi decided to study the issue after recognizing that patients can receive significant variation in quality and speed of diagnosis and care before they wind up needing amputation. The initial findings suggest that some veterans may be at greater risk of receiving worse care for their PAD, and that developing clinical programs, such as remote patient monitoring and management, may help.

Future research: Alabi hopes to further explore the differences between care in the private sector and care in an integrated health care system for patients with PAD, citing the fact that “some of the disparities that we see in PAD care prior to an amputation (among veterans) do not exist or do not exist to the same degree that they do in the private sector,” she said.

“There is a great deal of data suggesting that Black patients do not get vascular assessments at the same rate as white patients in the private sector,” says Alabi, a vascular surgeon who splits her time between Emory Healthcare and the VA Atlanta Healthcare System. “At the VHA, however, this study found that Black veterans were either more or just as likely to receive a vascular assessment in the year prior to amputation.”

Overall, Alabi believes this research is a starting point. Future research is needed to better define the reasons for regional practice variation and the role of local resource availability (such as presence of a vascular surgeon, registered vascular technologist) in the quality of veteran vascular care.

Rollins researchers investigate relationships between causes of newborn deaths in high mortality regions
Experts in child mortality say 75% of neonatal deaths in high-mortality areas are preventable. In places where mortality is high, children are especially vulnerable during the neonatal period, or first four weeks of life. In 2019, 2.4 million children died within the first month after birth, equivalent to 6,700 deaths each day. New findings by a team that included researchers from Rollins School of Public Health show the complex relationships among the multitude of factors that contribute to newborn deaths as well as shedding light on opportunities for preventing them.

Authors of the research, published in PLoS Global Public Health, include Robert F. Breiman, MD, professor of global health, environmental health and infectious diseases at the Rollins School of Public Health, and Cynthia G. Whitney, MD, research professor at Rollins and executive director of Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS), an international research network focused on deaths of children under five.

The study, conducted through CHAMPS, was based on a multi-year analysis of post-mortem tissue samples from 1,458 deaths of newborn infants from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone; and, South Africa. Taking the entire causal chain of death into consideration, the investigators found the most common causes were infection (40%), premature birth (32%) and respiratory distress syndrome (28%), a serious lung condition.

The findings highlight the urgent need for improvements to prenatal and obstetric care and infection prevention in high-mortality settings.

Psychological factors that may lead to celebrity stalking
An estimated 1.7 million people in the United States each year are stalked, which can be defined as harassment by someone who invades their privacy in a manner that is threatening or intimidating. Celebrities are prime targets for this behavior as some fans may become fanatical.

Recent research by Kenneth Carter, PhD, Emory’s Charles Howard Candler professor of psychology, and colleagues provided new insights into the attitudes that lead people to engage in threatening or dangerous behavior toward celebrities. Drawing from established scales of stalking-related attitudes and actions, the authors tested 586 college students to determine if they could significantly predict scores on a measure of obsessive stalking behaviors.

The results, published in PLoS ONE, show that people who are prone to boredom are more likely to stalk their favorite celebrities, while anger and thrill-seeking played a minimal role.

The paper was co-authored by researchers from Mercer University and Idaho State University.

New study shows how food and water insecurity exacerbated women’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Women living in urban informal settlements may be particularly vulnerable to the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic because of increased economic and psychosocial stressors in resource-limited environments. A new study in The Journal of Nutrition, led by researchers at the Rollins School of Public Health, as well as Monash University in Australia and Universitas Hasanuddin in Indonesia, found important associations between food and water insecurity and mental health, specifically depression, among women in urban settings in Indonesia.

Using data from household surveys that were administered multiple times during the two-year study period, findings show joint food and water insecurity had stronger associations with self-reported depression than either food insecurity or water insecurity alone.

The study surveyed 323 female primary caregivers living in informal settlements in the Indonesian port city of Makassar multiple times during the two-year study period, asking about access to food and water and asking participants to self-rate depressive symptoms.

Food and water insecurity together had a dramatic effect on depression scores, 62% higher than the effect of food alone and more than 18 times higher than water alone. The findings have strong implications worldwide as informal urban living arrangements proliferate in the growing cities in developing nations. Poor mental health is associated with premature mortality and hinders human growth. The authors, including MPH student Isabel Charles and Allison Salinger, MPH, Senior public health program associate at Rollins, say food and water security need to be addressed together rather than separately as in the past. Understanding these settings and their effects on mental health is important for achieving sustainable development worldwide.

How the adult brain supports visual navigation via walking
Emory scientists have shown that a unique region of the brain, the occipital place area (OPA), is tapped to allow adults to visually navigate when walking through an environment.

In laboratory experiments, Daniel D. Dilks, PhD, associate professor of psychology, and two of his students scanned subjects’ brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they watched videos recorded from the perspective of someone walking through an environment, then the perspective of someone crawling through that same environment. Other videos gave a flyover perspective and finally a scrambled montage of all the different perspectives patched together.

The OPA is a structure within the occipital lobes, a region in the rear of the head responsible for visual perception. Research by the Dilks team, published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex, showed the OPA was activated only while participants viewed the walking video, but not the videos shot from the other perspectives. The findings suggest that the OPA region is specific to walking, as opposed to other forms of navigation. The Dilks lab is now studying whether completely different brain systems may be involved in managing navigation as a crawling infant and as a toddler just learning to walk.

Emory professor analyzes institutional strategies to maintain and grow imaging research during the COVID-19 pandemic
Members of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Vice Chairs for Research have issued a roadmap to prepare for future crises like the COVID-19 pandemic that can impact research activities at academic hospitals around the world. Published in the April issue of Academic Radiology, the recommendations are based on extensive case studies and expert discussion.

The authors found the challenges were different in different stages of the pandemic. In the early stage, radiology departments had to close labs and lay off research workers in order to focus on high priority cases, whereas the mid stage focused on telehealth and virtual recruitment to address the backlog of deferred research studies. All but the most relevant research had to be temporarily suspended, with new projects placed on longer grant deadlines. However, the pandemic also created new funding opportunities for COVID-19 based research. The late and end stages emphasized use of technology, data and information systems to order and coordinate examinations during hospital re-openings and rebuilding of clinical services. Institutions responded by creating new imaging technologies and new digital systems for systems for analyzing them. These included a new focus on data sharing, machine learning and precision medicine.

“In addition to insights about ways to manage staffing and leadership issues, our work provides strategic direction for new radiology research opportunities including AI, 3D printing, technology, and informatics,” says Elizabeth Krupinski, PhD, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences in the School of Medicine, and one of the lead authors. “This is good news for us at Emory because we have strong and growing expertise in these areas.”

Emory researchers investigate benefits and drawbacks of structured reporting in radiology
Radiology reports are the main method radiologists use to convey to physicians what they found in their patient images. Traditionally these were done by viewing the image while dictating their findings using speech-to-text programs. More recently, the profession began a move toward using structured, online reporting templates, with standardized, organized information, as a way to improve the quality of reports and reduce ambiguity.

However, a new pilot study by a team including Elizabeth Krupinski, PhD, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences in the School of Medicine, found structured reporting had unexpected effects on radiologists’ attention. The research, published in the Journal of Medical Imaging, used eye-tracking software to measure how radiologists divide their visual search time between the computer monitor where they wrote their report with the template, versus the computer monitor where they were tasked with analyzing MRI images. For comparison it measured the same search times when radiologists used free text dictation.

When radiologists used structured reporting templates, they spent less time viewing the radiological images than they spent when they used free text dictation. The time to create a report also increased with template use. To note, diagnostic accuracy did not differ between the two forms of reporting.

“Template-based radiology reports have significant potential to alter the way radiologists view images and report on them,” says Krupinski, a psychologist with interests in medical image perception and medical decision making. “Further eye-tracking studies could help us determine whether and how templates and free reports impact the detection and classification of radiographic findings.”

The goal of Krupinski’s research is to better understand the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms underlying the way medical images are interpreted in order to reduce errors, improve training and ultimately improve patient care and outcomes.

Emory researchers contribute to better understanding of shared immune responses to COVID
An international team of researchers at Emory, elsewhere in the U.S. and India recently reported on the molecular structure of three newly generated antibodies from individuals in India who recovered from COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic. The new antibodies strongly neutralized the SARS-CoV-2 Alpha and Delta variants, poorly neutralized Beta and failed to neutralize Omicron. The research, co-authored by a team including Anamika Patel, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry, and Eric Ortlund, PhD, professor of biochemistry, was published recently in the journal Structure. The research detailed the precise molecular mechanisms by which all three antibodies targeted SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, a key step in developing improved antibody therapies that are less vulnerable to viral mutation.

Their findings are a major contribution to a better understanding of the biological processes that drive shared immune responses and how the Omicron variant managed to escape these. The authors say this is a critical component in fast-tracking vaccines and other therapies against multiple COVID-19 variants and subvariants that continually emerge and escape neutralization by existing antibodies and vaccines.

Emory professor’s combination therapy for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma looks promising In phase 2 trial
A phase 2 clinical trial led by Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute shows a combination of two drugs was well tolerated and benefitted 91 percent of participating patients with recurrent/metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

The study, reported in Nature Medicine, was led by principal investigator Nabil F. Saba, MD, Emory professor of hematology and medical oncology and co-director of Winship’s Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Program.

The two drugs used in the study were pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug that works with the immune system to help fight cancer, and cabozantinib, a drug known as a multi-tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Cabozantinib targets specific cell surface receptors important to cell functions that, when blocked, may slow tumor growth. Preclinical and clinical observations suggest cabozantinib also promotes an immune-permissive environment, possibly impacting the immune system’s capacity to fight cancer.

The research builds on earlier evidence that these two types of drugs were potentially good partners to combine — and that combination therapy could work better than therapy using only one drug.

The study enrolled participants at Emory University (the lead site) and the Tampa, Florida-based Moffitt Cancer Center, with multiple investigators participating from both sites. Progression-free survival and overall survival appear to be superior to outcomes using the current standard of care in the same carcinomas, which includes therapy of single anticancer drugs that block the activity of PD-1 AND PD-L1 immune proteins on the surface of cells.

The team is considering further evaluation of similar combinations in a larger, more definitive trial that could lead to altering the standard of care for treating metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.

Emory-developed computer program performs as well as nuclear medicine experts and enhances nuclear medicine residents’ performance in evaluating radiological kidney analyses
Software developed by Emory scientists not only performs as well as experts at interpreting diuretic renography imaging of kidneys, it also improves diagnostic performance of medical residents when used as part of their training, according to results published in Nuclear Medicine Communications.

The software module, called iRENEX, was created to determine if a kidney was obstructed. For evidence, it used clinical information and data from studies of kidney functioning that used the radiopharmaceutical 99mTc-mercaptoacetyltriglycine (99mTc-MAG3).

As part of the research, second-year nuclear medicine residents were given 50 studies done with 99mTc-MAG diuretic renography, then asked to score each kidney regarding the likelihood of obstruction. Scores could be as low as -1.0 (very high confidence in not being obstructed), to 0.0 (indeterminate), to as high as +1.0 (very high confidence in being obstructed). Residents, iRENEX and three expert readers all used the same scoring system.

Several months later, the residents were given access to their original scores along with the scores and rationale provided by iRENEX and were asked to reinterpret the original fifty studies. Assisted by iRENEX, residents achieved significantly better agreement with expert interpretations. An advantage of this software is that iRENEX doesn’t only provide the score and rationale but also the reasons for its interpretation.

“These results support the use of RENEX in our web-based teaching module for the interpretation of diuretic renography studies,” says Andrew T. Taylor, Jr., MD, professor and nuclear medicine specialist in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences.

The multi-institutional research team included from Emory Radiology Valeria Moncayo, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences in the School of Medicine, Raghuveer K. Halkar, MD, professor in the Department of Radiology, and Ernest Garcia, PhD, professor emeritus.

Emory researchers use MRI imaging to show links between multiple cranial nerve abnormalities in patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension
Spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH), a condition caused by abnormally low fluid pressure inside the skull, has long been known to cause severe headaches, but there has been little attention to how it may cause other neurological symptoms such as vision changes, loss of hearing and vertigo.

Recently, a team including researchers in Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences contributed to better understanding of these links by showing how these other abnormalities appeared on magnetic resonance images (MRI).

The researchers retrospectively examined MRIs of patients diagnosed with SIH to determine how often clinically significant visual changes, such as diplopia (double vision), and hearing changes were associated with MRI findings in cranial nerves associated with these symptoms.

They found patients whose MRIs showed abnormalities in the target cranial nerves were much more likely to have associated neurological symptoms than those without MRI findings. Their results were published online this spring in the Journal of Neuroimaging

“Our results showed the potential value of looking for and reporting cranial nerve abnormalities on brain MRI in patients with suspected SIH,” says neuroradiologist Brent D. Weinberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the School of Medicine. “The findings can support the diagnosis of SIH and help patients understand why they may have additional symptoms in addition to headache.”

Other Emory collaborators on the project include Jason W. Allen, MD, PhD, director of the Division of Neuroradiology, the director of the Laboratory for Imaging Neurosciences at Emory, and Amit M. Saindane, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. Emory Medical School graduate Sera Kim, MD, currently a radiology resident at UCSF, also participated in the study.

New study by Goizueta faculty shows how colorism impacts professional achievement
Colorism has long been documented in the U.S. and elsewhere. Discrimination against human beings on the basis of their facial features, hair, and skin color transcends race — it is prevalent even within groups that share the same ethnic identity, where lighter skin tones are perceived to be more valuable than dark.

A new study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by faculty and students at the Goizueta Business School showed how colorism works in practice to shape peoples’ estimation of the leadership potential of others. The investigators showed people images of college football coaches, then asked them to rate how typical of their race each image appeared to be.

The authors found those perceived as typically white were more likely to actually be successful coaches than those perceived as typically Black. Following up, the researchers asked football fans to judge the future leadership potential of same-race football players who were more or less stereotypical of their race. Seventy percent of the time, participants saw the more-typical white individual as having more leadership potential than the less-typical white individual.

The authors, including Melissa Williams, PhD, associate professor of Organization & Management and Anand Swaminathan, PhD, Roberto C. Goizueta Chair of Organization and Management and PhD candidate Tosen Nwadei, conclude the more white a white person looks, the more they are seen as leadership material. Williams says the findings show race isn’t a uniform experience, making it imperative to consider all the dimensions of race, including individual color differences.

New research by Emory researchers shows possible path to cardiac regeneration
Researchers at Emory School of Medicine and elsewhere recently identified a single protein that plays an important role in regulating heart muscle cells responsible for the contraction of the heart. Heart disease is an important cause of mortality worldwide, but when muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes are lost in heart disease, the heart has only limited ability to replace them.

The research team, led by Young-sup Yoon, PhD, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at Emory University School of Medicine, discovered the molecular process that allows CBX7, a protein present in the cell’s interior fluid known as cytoplasm, to function as a molecular switch, turning off growth of cardiomyocytes in the hearts of newborn mice. When the investigators transferred the CBX7 gene into the mice it reduced growth of cardiomyocytes; conversely, inactivating the same gene increased growth of the heart muscle cells. The study, recently published in the journal Circulation, is the first to demonstrate the role of CBX7 in regulating cardiomyocyte growth, making this protein an important potential target for cardiac regeneration.


Winship Cancer researchers win grant to explore new breast cancer therapy
Winship Cancer Institute researchers, led by Emory radiation oncologists Zachary S. Buchwald and David S. Yu, received a three-year, $1.2 million Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award from the U.S. Department of Defense to advance a novel approach for treating breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States.

SAMHD1, a protein that has emerged as a promising target of cancer therapy, is overexpressed in up to 27% of breast cancers, and its high expression is associated with poor outcomes in patients. The research team has developed an innovative strategy for targeting SAMHD1 in breast cancer tumors, using a natural viral accessory protein called Vpx. They plan to package Vpx in virus-like particles and use it against SAMHD1 to stimulate stem cell-like CD8+ T cells and overcome resistance to immune therapy.

The research will use human breast cancer patient samples and breast cancer mouse models to learn how SAMHD1 directs the dynamics underlying anti-tumor immunity in breast cancer and the role of SAMHD1 as a biomarker for selecting breast cancer patients who may benefit from immune therapy. The completed project will establish proof-of-concept for using virus-like particles containing Vpx to target SAMHD1, with the goal of making breast cancer immune therapy a more effective treatment strategy for a greater number of patients with breast cancer.

Winship Cancer Institute researchers win grant to develop new personalized vaccine immunotherapy for recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a form of cancer therapy that work by blocking proteins that keep immune responses from being too strong and stop the immune system from attacking the cancer cells. Though these therapies have improved the survival rate of patients with head and neck cancer, only a subset of patients respond to them because of the high degree of patient-to-patient variation in individual tumors.

Winship Cancer Institute researchers led by Dong Moon Shin, MD, professor of hematology and medical oncology, and Periasamy Selvaraj, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, received a new $625,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to help address this problem.

The five-year R01 award will support the development of a novel, personalized vaccine immunotherapy to enable more patients with head and neck cancer to benefit from immune checkpoint therapies.

The treatment will use membrane vesicles derived from a patient’s own tumor that have been modified to express immune-stimulating molecules, which will then be administered alone and together with an immune checkpoint inhibitor to boost the patient’s immune response against cancer cells.

Notably, the process does not require the establishment of cell lines, identification of tumor antigens or in vitro manipulation of immune cells, making it more cost-effective than other approaches.

The vaccine will first be evaluated in a mouse model, and if successful, will advance to a phase 1b dose-escalation clinical trial.

Modeling mosquito flight to study their behaviors
Mosquitoes are sometimes referred to as the deadliest animals on Earth, spreading diseases that kill an estimated 725,000 people per year. Compared to the outsized impact of these insects relatively little is known about their behaviors.

The Research Corporation for Science Advancement awarded a $100,000 Scialog grant to measure and model mosquito flight and movement behavior at high spatiotemporal resolution. Principal investigators are Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, PhD, a disease ecologist and associate professor in Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences, and Gauillaume Bastille-Rousseau from Southern Illinois University.

Scialog grants support research by stimulating interdisciplinary conversation and community building around important scientific themes.

Vazquez-Prokopec studies the complex interactions between pathogens, their hosts and the environment that shape how diseases spread and epidemics are propagated. Tapping technology capable of photographing flying mosquitos at the rate of 100 images per second, the researchers will collect data on their movements through space and use it to create 3D models of their flight patterns. These simulations will help them to test mysteries such as how the insects react to different repellants, how they spend their time when they are not biting us and why they seem to prefer biting some people more than others.

Candler School of Theology faculty win sabbatical research grants
Two faculty members in Emory’s Candler School of Theology were recently awarded Sabbatical Research Grants from the Louisville Institute to support their upcoming book projects.

Alison Collis Greene, PhD, associate professor of American Religious History, won a grant for her project, “Backwater: Religion, Community, and Justice in a Jim Crow Swamp,” a narrative history of religion and environment in a rural eastern North Carolina community. Her research specifically focuses on the 1947 collaboration in which a Black farmers’ cooperative and a multiracial Christian workcamp worked together in an attempt to create an alternative to agricultural capitalism.

Joel B. Kemp, PhD, assistant professor of Hebrew Bible, won a grant for “Blackness in 3D: Biblical Race, American Law, and Contemporary Crises.” Kemp’s project expands the ongoing conversation among scholars about the role churches have played in constructing America’s racial caste systems.

His work illustrates how the history of racialized interpretations of Genesis 4 (“Mark of Cain”), Genesis 9 (“Curse of Ham”), and Genesis10 (“Table of Nations”) have contributed to linking Blackness with dangerousness, depravity, and deviance (what Kemp calls the “3Ds of Blackness”)—and, consequently, how these theological constructions have led to legal definitions of and justifications for the violent regulation of Black bodies.

Funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment Inc., Louisville Institute, based at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, awards grants and fellowships to those who lead and study North American religious institutions, practices, and movements, advancing scholarship to strengthen church, academy, and wider society.

Department of Human Genetics creates new fund for student development
Emory’s Department of Human Genetics recently announced the creation of the Heyman Family Fragile X Trainee Fund, to give students access to critical professional development, research, and travel opportunities that they may use to further their careers researching or working with people with Fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is a disorder caused by the mutation of a single gene, FMR1, that affects a person’s development, especially that person’s behavior and ability to learn. Fragile X can also affect communication skills, physical appearance, and sensitivity to noise, light, or other sensory information.

The fund was established by the Fragile-X Association of Georgia and Gail Heyman, a long-time supporter and advocate of Emory’s Fragile X research. Heyman’s son, Scott, was diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome in 1989 at the age of 9. Fragile X gave Gail and her family a cause to fight for and they have become advocates for inclusion and translational research.

Emory’s Fragile X Syndrome Clinic meets the unique needs of individuals with Fragile X syndrome from birth through young adulthood with physicians, scientists, and staff who have expertise in genetics, neurodevelopment, and neurobehavior. The Clinic is also actively establishing "best practice" recommendations for evaluation and ongoing care in fragile X, enrolling fragile X families into a national registry to be used for research and building a nationwide network for collaborative research efforts.


Emory ranked third in new drug discoveries by public institutions
Emory was recently ranked #3 in new analysis of new drug discoveries by public universities and research organizations, contributing more FDA-approved drugs and vaccines than any other public institution in the world except the University of California and the National Institutes of Health. The study, published in April in the Journal of Technology Transfer, analyzed international public-sector contributions to Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs and vaccines in search of a clearer understanding of worldwide biomedical innovation.

The authors, led by Ashley J. Stevens, PhD, founder of the intellectual property consultancy Focus IP Group LLC, consulted multiple sources to identify 364 FDA-approved drugs and vaccines from 1973 to 2016 that they categorized as discovered in whole or in part through public academic research. In order to be included, an institution needed to create specific intellectual property (IP) such as patented inventions or new materials needed to make, use or sell drugs and transfer its invention to a company, usually through a patent. Their analysis credited Emory researchers with 18 drugs in that period. Overall, public research institutions in the United States dominated academic drug discovery, with two thirds of the total approved by the FDA.

“In the context of the global public sector landscape, the U.S. dominates drug discovery,” the authors stated, “accounting for two-thirds of these drugs and many of the important, innovative vaccines introduced over the past 30 years.”

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