Global incubator seed grants awarded – The Source


The McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis is committed to deepening and strengthening research, connections and collaborations with researchers around the world. A new round of global incubator seed grants recently awarded by the academy will help launch more than a dozen high-impact innovative projects.

The program aimed to expand ties in Africa and Latin America, while deepening relationships with McDonnell Academy partners in other regions. The grants went to research collaborations spanning five continents.

More than five dozen teams have applied for funding to support research in 30 countries; 15 projects were selected and will receive between $ 10,000 and $ 25,000 each. Public health, collective housing and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic are among the topics the projects will explore.

“COVID creates a unique situation and makes it more difficult to maintain and advance international collaborations,” said Jorge Llibre-Guerra, MD, assistant professor of neurology in the Faculty of Medicine. His recently funded project focuses on genetic testing for an inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease for people in Chile. “The projects funded by McDonnell Academy will help address this need in countries like Chile,” he said.

Llibre-Guerra, along with colleagues at the University of Chile, is seeking to identify families that could benefit from genetic testing for markers of Alzheimer’s disease and associated genetic counseling.

“Chile recently implemented a national plan for dementia, but it does not include tailored diagnostic or therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s disease with dominant transmission (DIAD),” Llibre-Guerra said. “We believe that the number of families with DIAD in Chile could be underestimated due to the high cost and lack of access to genetic testing.

“In addition, there are no standards of practice or consensus guidelines for genetic counseling for familial Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the results of this project may shed light on the need to improve medical genetics services and family counseling in Chile, leading to further support from stakeholders and policy makers.

Researchers from the Brown School and the School of Medicine will use their grant to work with colleagues at Makerere University in Uganda, exploring the best ways to develop mobile health interventions – such as a text message or an app – for young people living with HIV in Uganda. Young people living with HIV often face depression, which can affect the results of their treatment.

“Mobile health interventions are one of the technological approaches for the delivery of psychosocial interventions outside the traditional clinical setting. Our pilot study is a first step in understanding the mobile health needs of depressed young people aged 14-17 living with HIV, ”said Proscovia Nabunya, Assistant Research Professor at Brown School, in partnership with Patricia Cavazos-Rehg , professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine.

“The results of this formative study will inform the development of a culturally appropriate mHealth intervention protocol to address depression – a major barrier to adherence to HIV treatment among young people. “

And researchers at the University of Washington are working with their counterparts at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) to examine high-tech, low-cost solutions for medical surveillance of a variety of vascular disorders. They focus on biomedical imaging and hope to develop a miniaturized monitoring system to enable precise point-of-care solutions for patients.

“My lab has been working on functional photoacoustic imaging,” said Song Hu, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering. “In blood vessel imaging, we use hemoglobin as a contrast agent. By looking at the hemoglobin molecules, we can use the laser to visualize a vessel and how it works.

“Likewise, we can look at other important biomolecules by adjusting the wavelengths or the color of the laser. If you tune the wavelengths more to infrared, you will be able to visualize glucose. If we could further develop this technology to make it sensitive enough, perhaps we could monitor glucose levels non-invasively. “

While Hu is focusing on the software portion of the project, his partner Terence Wong, an assistant professor at HKUST, is developing the small-scale technology to accurately measure a patient’s data.

“I hope that in the future we can make a highly portable and portable device, so that you can have continuous and accurate monitoring of various systems of the human body,” Wong said.

The grants were made possible through the generosity of Bethany and Bob Millard. For the full list of projects receiving seed funding, visit the university’s website global site.


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