Media release

Grants seed local medical research

The Rhode Island Foundation awarded more than $400,000 in seed funding to 17 promising medical research projects. The grants are designed to help early-career researchers advance projects to the point where they can compete for national funding.

The work ranges from developing data that could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of people suffering from opioid use disorder in hospital ERs to determining the impact of social media on the desire to drink.
With this round of grants, the Foundation has awarded nearly $2.5 million since 2008.

“We are grateful that our generous donors provide the crucial source of seed funding that enables local researchers to purse promising medical advances. Our hope is that their successes will bring about healthier lives as well as a healthier economy.”

- Neil D. Steinberg, Foundation president and CEO

Johnson & Wales University received $20,300 for “Using Social Media Comments to Reduce the Desire to Drink.” The study will be led by Jonathan Noel, assistant professor in the College of Health & Wellness.

The study will test whether comments left in response to a social media post can influence the desire to drink. The study will examine the effects of those responses, including warning messages from public health organizations and responsibility messages developed by the alcohol industry.

“My hypothesis is that the pro-drinking comments will increase the desire to drink, while anti-drinking and responsible-drinking messages will be a deterrent,” Noel said.

“Social media marketing is more than just the ad message. It’s surrounded by other information we might not notice, such as basic user engagement including comments, likes and shares. If a post or ad has been liked by a friend, you are given an incentive beyond what the ads are actually presenting,” said Noel.

“From what history has taught us regarding tobacco use, in order to really see a decrease in binge drinking and the consequences of alcohol use stemming from this form of advertising, we would need to change how people engage and interact with these ads," he said.

Rhode Island Hospital received $24,914 for “Quality Improvement of Emergency Department Opioid Use Disorder Treatment.” The study will be led by Elizabeth Samuels, M.D., MPH, MHS.

“Emergency departments (ED) can be a key point of intervention for people treated for an opioid overdose. Each overdose we treat in the ED is an opportunity to provide harm reduction services and linkage to addiction treatment,” said Samuels.

The study will assess patient use of hospital emergency services with the aim of identifying ways to improve care, including harm reduction services, medication for addiction treatment, and counseling by recovery coaches.

“Opioid overdose patients seen in the ED are at high risk of repeat overdose and opioid overdose death. By understanding utilization barriers and how services could be improved, we aim to improve care for people who use opioids to prevent future overdoses and overdose death,” she said.

The other grants are:

  • Brown University received $25,000 for “Redox Control of Immunoregulatory Factors as Targeted Therapies for Inflammation,” led by George Lisi, Ph.D.
  • Brown University received $25,000 for “Alginate Gels for the Release of Immunomodulatory Cues in Ischemic Skin Flaps,” led by Fabiola Munarin, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island College received $23,986 for “Genetic Basis of Zebrafish Embryonic Melanoctye Migration and Pattern Formation,” led by Larissa Patterson, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island Hospital received $25,000 for “Effect of Moveable Niches Vesicles on the Development and Mitigation of Bone Marrow Failure,” led by Sicheng Wen, Ph.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $25,000 for “HIV Transmitted Drug Resistance and Transmission Networks in the Northern Dominican Republic,” led by Martha Sanchez, M.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $24,994.46 for “Understanding Barriers to Health Care among Recently Incarcerated High-risk Women,” led by Collette Sosnowy, Ph.D.
  • The Ocean State Research Institute received $25,000 for “Cardiopulmonary Fitness, Premature Vascular Aging and Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease in HIV,” led by Sebhat Erqou, Ph.D.
  • The Ocean State Research Institute received $25,000 for “Macrophages under Pressure in Right Ventricular Dysfunction Associated with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension,” led by Jamila Siamwala, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Improving Dissemination of Technology-Delivered Physical Activity Interventions,” led by Lauren Bohlen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $24,956 for “A Pilot Intervention to Reduce Sedentary Time among Older Adults Living in Senior Housing,” led by Mary Greaney, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “A Bioinspired in Situ Delivery Platform with Tunable Drug Release for Improved Cancer Therapy,” led by Jie Shen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “The Effects of Obesity during Pregnancy on Offspring Pancreas DNA Methylation,” led by Maria Hoffman, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Investigating Specialized Ribosomes and Gene Regulation in Francisella Tularensis,” led by Kathryn Ramsey, Ph.D.

The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity Evaluation in Children with Cerebral Palsy,” led by Alessandra Adami, Ph.D.

A review panel made up of scientists and physicians assisted the Foundation in reviewing the proposals.

The funding came through 21 endowments at the Foundation that help medical researchers win permanent funding from national sources. They are the Alice Newton Fund, Alice W. Bliss Memorial Fund, Anne Elizabeth Chase Fund, Charles Goss Memorial Fund, Charles V. Chapin Fellowship Fund, Colonel Lee Walton and Xenia Roberts Memorial Fund, Edythe K. and Jane E. Richmond Memorial Cancer Fund, Esther S. Phillips Fund, Eva and Boris Frankfurt Fund, Foundation for Health Fund, Frieda Dengal Fund, Gilbert J. Clappin Jr. Memorial Fund, Haire Family Fund, Herbert E. Hopkins Fund, John O. Strom, M.D., Memorial Fund; Marquise d'Andigne Fund, Mary A. Young Cancer Fund, Phebe Parker Fund, Richard N. and Beverly E. Carr Fund, United Welfare Committee Fund and Samuel J. and Esther Chester Medical Research Fund.