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[November 12, 2009]

SUNY Downstate Receives More Than $8.8 Million in Stimulus Grants:
Investment in Research Will Grow the Economy

SUNY Downstate Medical Center has received more than $8.8 million in stimulus grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nine Downstate researchers were awarded competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with several more expected.

The grants will advance research in areas ranging from cardiology and HIV treatment to eliminating health disparities. They also provide support for training young scientists.

“The key to a growing economy is investing in innovation,” said Governor David Paterson, who announced the Downstate grants in September, along with those to other New York institutions. The new funding is meant to spur scientific innovation and help ensure that New York remains a leader in research. 

“SUNY Downstate’s importance as Brooklyn’s only academic medical center is well established, but these grants highlight its importance as a center for research,” said Ian L. Taylor, MD, PhD, senior vice president for biomedical research and education.

Downstate President John C. LaRosa, MD, added, “The grants complement Downstate’s leadership in biotechnology, which is bringing new jobs and businesses to Brooklyn and New York.”

To date, the following Downstate researchers have been awarded the first round of stimulus grants from the NIH and its agencies:

Health disparities:
$1,299,657, effective 9/20/09-7/31/11, from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities—awarded to Clinton Brown, MD, associate professor of medicine, to fund the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC). A unique partnership between a community-based organization (the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health), a government agency (Office of the Brooklyn Borough President), and an academic research institution (Downstate Medical Center), the grant will enable the BHDC to increase capacity and expand community engagement. The Center's goals include promoting minority health, reducing disparities, and producing enduring health policy changes.

Small RNAs in neurons:
$790,319, effective 7/1/09-6/30/11, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse—awarded to Henri Tiedge, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology, for a project that will establish how RNA travel is regulated in nerve cells and how man-made drugs, including drugs of abuse, affect RNA movement in neurons, thereby impacting brain function.


Heart attack:
$424,940, effective 7/1/09-6/30/11, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute—awarded to Ming Zhang, MD, PhD, research assistant professor of anesthesiology, to study the role of autoimmune IgM (a natural antibody) in mediating myocardial injury in infarction, commonly known as a heart attack.  During myocardial infarction, the interruption of blood supply to part of the heart causes heart tissue to die. The project aims to provide a basis for new supportive management of patients who experience a heart attack.

Molecular mechanisms affecting cholesterol:
$832,881, effective 9/30/09-8/31/11, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease—awarded to M. Mahmood Hussain, PhD, professor of cell biology and of pediatrics, to examine the role of the CLOCK gene in the diurnal (daily) regulation of microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP) and plasma lipids. Dr. Hussain, who is known for having developed a test to study MTP, is currently working to enhance the safety of drugs that inhibit MTP and lower plasma cholesterol. He was also awarded a $7,770 student training grant.

Lipid metabolism and cardiovascular diseases:
$273,056, effective 7/15/09-6/30/11, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute—awarded to Weijun Jin, MD, assistant professor of cell biology, for a project on the role of proprotein convertases in lipoprotein metabolism. Disorders of lipid metabolism are responsible for several risk factors in cardiovascular disease. This project will study the role of proprotein convertases (PCs) associated with lipid disorders. A better understanding of how PCs regulate lipid metabolism may lead to new approaches to preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Inflammation and atherosclerosis:
$852,638, effective 9/1/09-8/31/11, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute—awarded to Xian-Cheng Jiang, MD, PhD, professor of cell biology, for a project on the effect of macrophage sphingomyelin synthase (SMS) on reducing atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries). The researchers hope to evaluate SMS as a therapeutic target for treating the disease.

HIV disease:
Two grants totaling $3,915,366, effective 9/26/09-8/3/11, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease—awarded to Howard Minkoff, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, as part of the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), the largest ongoing study of HIV infection in women in the United States. The first grant, in the sum of $3,111,766, will go toward identifying changes in biomarkers that precede and predict transitions in HIV disease progression. The second grant, for $803,600, will fund cross-sectional and prospective studies on the effects of vitamin D deficiency on women with HIV infection.

Training for HIV Investigators:
$21,070, effective 9/1/09-5/31/10, from the NIH's Fogarty International Center—awarded to Jack DeHovitz, MD, MPH, director of the HIV Center for Women and Children, to enhance the New York State AIDS International Training and Research Program under the auspices of Downstate’s STAR (Special Treatment and Research) Program. The grant will provide researchers long-distance training in both laboratory and epidemiologic investigative techniques. Its ultimate goal is to strengthen the in-country capacity of institutions in Eastern Europe to address the AIDS crisis.

Effects of cocaine binging on pregnancy:
$435,042, effective 5/15/09-4/30/11, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse—awarded to Diana Dow-Edwards, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology and of cell biology, to study the effects of binge cocaine exposure during pregnancy. Women who smoke cocaine typically binge on the drug and have greater difficulty quitting during pregnancy than those who inhale ("snort") cocaine. Dr. Dow-Edwards will develop a rat model of binging—the first of its kind—to enable comparisons with human exposures to cocaine during pregnancy and answer the question of whether binging creates greater neurobehaviorial alterations than other routes of exposure.  



SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks ninth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.