Announcing the FY21 Innovation Pilot Award Recipients

We are thrilled to announce the FY21 recipients of the ISCRM Innovation Pilot Awards, a state-funded program that helps to seed early projects with the potential of leading to significant grants, papers, and discoveries.

Ankita Roy, PhD, Acting Instructor, Nephrology

Discovery of a Novel Polycystin Complex in Primary Cilia
Research in porcine models by Ankita Roy has led to novel insights into the molecular processes underlying the formation of cysts associated with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). To definitively understand the mechanism of PKD, the researchers will use stem cell-derived kidney organoids to determine if the same phenotype is present in the human cells, define the role of the polycystin complex in cilia dependent cyst activation comprehensively, and develop potential therapies.

Stephen P. Seslar, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Albert Folch, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering
Chuck Murry, MD, PhD, Professor of Pathology, Bioengineering, Medicine/Cardiology, Director of ISCRM

Development and initial ex-vivo validation of a customizable 3-dimensionally (3D) printed microfluidic needle array for stem cell delivery
The research team will design, develop, and test a customizable 3D-printed microfluidic needle array for stem cell delivery in cell therapy. The primary goal is to address a need for more efficient modes of delivery that improve on a manually-directed single-needle approach.  The researchers believe this technology will lead to advances in stem cell delivery in a variety of clinical applications.

Claire Watson, PhD, Acting Instructor, Department of Othopaedics and Sports Medicine

Wnt16 and Notch signaling during spine morphogenesis
There is an urgent scientific need to elucidate how spinal patterning is controlled to advance our ability to treat human diseases of the spine, which are an enormous health burden. Understanding the molecular factors that contribute to spine morphogenesis is needed to generate new therapies for spinal disease and injury. In this project, Dr. Watson will assess the interplay between Wnt16 and Notch signaling during zebrafish spinal development and patterning.

Vincenzo Cirulli, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine/Pharmacology, Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition
Albert Folch, PhD, Professor of Bioengineering

Guiding stem cell differentiation into functional pancreatic islet cells using 3D printed gradient generators
Current protocols for the derivation of pancreatic islet β-cells from stem cells remain relatively inefficient. To help advance the field of islet cell transplantation, the researchers will test a 3D-printed tool known as a Bioengineered Gradient Generator – a technology they anticipate will help scale-up of stem cell seeding and a more efficient differentiation for cell replacement therapies in diabetes. Results will also generate significant preliminary data for a multi-PI R01 project that they plan to submit to the NIH next year.

Lev Silberstein, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Washington, Attending Hematologist, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Regulation of primitive, myeloid-biased HSC regeneration by Semaphorin 4a
In this project, the researchers will explore the pro-regenerative properties of the protein Semaphorin 4a (Sema4a) using clinically relevant models. Specific aims include determining if in vivo administration of Sema4a following chemotherapy can prevent loss of the most potent hematopoietic (blood) stem cells in mice and establish if in vitro treatment with Sema4a improves engraftment of gene-corrected hematopoietic stem cells in humans. Promising preliminary data in the translational setting will create a strong rationale for more comprehensive exploration of Semaphorin 4a function in blood cell production and make a compelling case for attracting federal funding to pursue these studies.

Edward J. Kelly, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics
Ken Thummel, PhD, Professor of Pharamceutics

Development of an Intestinal Microphysiological System for Predictive Drug Disposition
Over the last eight years, researchers in the UW School of Pharmacy and Kidney Research Institute have used organ-on-a-chip models to study how drugs interact with the kidney and liver. The award will enable them to develop an intestine-on-a-chip for the purposes of modeling oral drug disposition. The work of the investigation, which is the thesis project for graduate student Christopher Arian, is a step toward a more holistic look at the pathways of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion through the body – and toward technologies to reduce reliance on animal testing using coupled organ chip systems.