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UT faculty awarded $1.3 million in federal grants for medical research, education, technology

Faculty members at The University of Toledo were awarded $1.3 million in federal grants for projects related to opioid abuse, mental health, cancer and antimicrobial technology.

“The University of Toledo continues to advance its strong research base, this time in the two critical areas of innovative drug targets for cancer risk and also to public health and opioid crisis education,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “The University of Toledo’s leadership in pioneering treatments and therapies for everything from heart disease to detecting a substance-use relapse has earned it the attention of granting agencies. Securing competitive federal awards is no easy task. Congratulations to UT for identifying and competing in very competitive space.”

Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith, professor and chair of the UT Department of Psychiatry, was awarded a three-year, $449,076 grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment to expand education about opioid use disorder across all disciplines within UT’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

“The College of Medicine and Life Sciences will equip all medical students with the knowledge and the skills they need to appropriately manage opioid treatment and confidently identify opioid use disorders, regardless of their planned specialty. We are training a generation of family medicine doctors, surgeons and internists to actively prevent and treat opioid use disorders,” McCullumsmith said.

Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the UT College of Nursing and co-chair of the UT Opioid Task Force, was awarded a three-year, $371,723 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for an interdisciplinary public health project that will provide evidenced-based mental health awareness training to UT students, faculty and staff, as well as the wider northwest Ohio community.

The training includes appropriate responses, materials on available community resources, and information about the unique mental health needs of active-duty military and veterans. The program is built with a specific emphasis on issues related to the opioid epidemic.

“With one in five Americans experiencing mental health problems in a given year, it is more likely that an individual will come across someone having an emotional or mental health crisis than someone having a heart attack. By providing ‘mental health first aid,’ we will empower our students, faculty and community to recognize mental health and substance abuse problems and respond appropriately. This type of training is especially important during this time of the pervasive opioid crisis affecting our state and the nation,” Lewandowski said.

Dr. Maria Diakonova, professor in the UT Department of Biological Sciences, was awarded a three-year, $449,667 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to focus on a protein called JAK2 as she works to identify new drug targets to reduce the risk of cancer.

“Our goal is to explain the JAK2-mediated intracellular pathways and have a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in cell proliferation, or cell division, which could provide insight into future therapeutic approaches to cancer,” Diakonova said.

Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to research broad-spectrum antimicrobial coatings for garments and textiles. Antimicrobial treatments are already used in medicine as anti-infective treatments and in garments and textiles for odor control. This technology could bring odor control to a wider range of products and reduce the need to launder many garments, improving garment lifespan and reducing their environmental impacts.

“We think our antimicrobial technology could bring a lot of added value to the garment and medical industries and create new manufacturing jobs right here in northwestern Ohio,” Bigioni said.