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Foundation Awards $750,000 for Collaborative Research Projects

Top photo: The Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s annual Innovations Symposium brings together scientific leaders like, Eric G. Pamer, MD of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, to move Inflammatory Bowel Disease research forward. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest.

Oakland, Calif. – The Kenneth Rainin Foundation announced today that it has awarded $750,000 for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) research through its Synergy Award program. The Rainin Foundation funds scientific projects that have the potential to yield transformative discoveries and major insights into predicting and preventing IBD.

Since 2014, the Foundation’s Synergy Awards have enabled teams of investigators with differing areas of expertise to pool their talents and resources toward a research goal that would not be possible if the investigators worked independently. The 2017 Synergy Awards, which include first-time grantees from Stanford University, will support:

  • Aida Habtezion, MD, Stanford University; Sidhartha R. Sinha, MD Stanford University; and Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, Stanford University, for Secondary Bile Acids Modulate Intestinal Inflammation, $200,000. Researchers will explore the effects of secondary bile acids (SBAs) on the inflammation of surgically created rectums that replace diseased colons. Improving understanding of SBAs holds potential as a new therapeutic target for IBD.
  • Gwendalyn Randolph, PhD, Washington University; Saurabh Mehandru, MD, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai; and Daniel Mucida, PhD, Rockefeller University, for Toward identifying the unique pathology that explains Ulcerative Colitis distribution, $300,000. This project will explore the variance in scope of ulcerative colitis disease, specifically the sharp demarcation between macroscopically involved and uninvolved areas. The team will investigate the link between disease pattern and the organization of nerves in bands around the colon, which they hope will create a better understanding of the drivers of disease and progression.
  • Iliyan D. Iliev, PhD, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; Inga Peter, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Jean-Frédéric Colombel, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, for The role of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the fungal microbiota transmission from pregnant women to the offspring, $250,000. Researchers will examine the composition of the fungal community in babies born to mothers with IBD to understand whether fungi can be transferred from mothers to babies and potentially contribute to disease later in life.

Dr. Averil Ma, chair of the Rainin Foundation’s Scientific Advisory, emphasized that with the Synergy Awards, the Foundation seeks grantees that truly embody the spirit of collaboration. “We are excited about this year’s funded projects, all of which are dependent on multiple research labs working together toward a singular goal,” said Ma “All of these labs have strong resources and institutional backing, and are well positioned to achieve tangible results and advance our understanding of IBD.”

Jean-Frédéric Colombel, MD (left) at the Rainin Foundation’s 2016 Innovations Symposium. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

The funded projects will engage in translational science—they aim to “translate” fundamental research findings into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes—which is a direction that the Foundation has been moving toward. Laura Wilson, Director of Health Strategy and Ventures for the Rainin Foundation, said, “Our awards for translational science support the Health program’s goals. We’re looking for transformational ideas. These types of projects appeal to us because they tend to be risky, and therefore difficult to fund, but can have significant impact on moving the needle of research.”

The Synergy Award is one of three grant programs the Rainin Foundation offers for IBD related research. Learn more about grant opportunities here.

The Foundation’s annual Innovations Symposium will take place on July 24–25, 2017, in San Francisco. This event brings together scientific leaders, trainees, researchers and clinicians from around the world to collaborate and learn together to move IBD research forward.

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