Media release

Our grants seed medical research

The Rhode Island Foundation is awarding nearly $340,000 in seed funding to 16 promising medical research projects. The work ranges from developing data that could lead to break-throughs in treating chronic Lyme disease to determining the impact of healthy diets on diabetes.

The grants are designed to help early-career researchers advance projects to the point where they can compete for national funding. With this round of grants, the Foundation has awarded nearly $2.5 million in medical research seed funding since 2008.

“We are grateful that our generous donors provide the crucial source of seed funding that enables local researchers to pursue promising medical advances,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Our hope is that their successes will bring about healthier lives as well as a healthier economy.”

The Miriam Hospital received $16,000 for a project entitled “Defining Chronic Lyme Symptoms and Quality of Life to Develop Future Interventions.” The project will be led by research scientist Sara Vargas, Ph.D.

Rhode Island ranks fifth nationally in Lyme incidence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While many patients recover shortly after antibiotic treatment, some continue to experience symptoms such as fatigue, pain and cognitive disruptions for years after initial treatment.

“The search is underway to develop appropriate diagnostic tests and treatments for chronic Lyme; but, in the meantime, patients are suffering with debilitating symptoms. We’ll work with patients at Lifespan’s Lyme Disease Center to generate pilot data that will inform a framework for future behavioral interventions.”

- Sara Vargas, Ph.D

The Lifespan Lyme Disease Center, based at The Miriam Hospital, is a multidisciplinary center dedicated to the treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. The team’s infectious disease specialists collaborate with behavioral health experts and physical therapists and together they share expertise with patients who are coping with post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, sometimes called chronic Lyme disease.

The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Correlations between Dietary Quality of Food Purchases and Diabetes Prevalence” led by Maya Vadiveloo, assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences.

Diet is a major risk factor attributed to seven of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States, including chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Research has not explored the correlation between the dietary quality of household-level food purchases and the prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. Enhancing our ability to understand diet-disease relationships using routinely collected dietary data will enable us to develop appropriate interventions to reduce chronic disease burden in the U.S.,” said Vadiveloo.

The remaining research grant recipients are:

  • Bradley Hospital was awarded $25,000 for “rTMS (sic) and EF Training for Working Memory Deficits in Adolescent Psychopathology” led by Brian Kavanaugh, Psy.D.
  • Brown University was awarded $25,000 for “NMR Structure and Function Studies on Constituents of Promyelocytic Leukemia Nuclear Bodies” led by Mandar Naik, Ph.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $25,000 for “Counting Kids; Enhancing Detection of Pediatric Tuberculosis in Ukraine” Natasha Rybak, M.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $11,458 for “A Pilot Study Exploring Powassan Virus Prevalence in Rhode Island” led by Rebecca Reece, M.D.
  • Rhode Island College was awarded $11,246 for “Understanding the Effects of Metabolism on Protein Folding and Aggregation” led by William Holmes, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island Hospital received $25,000 for “Novel Diagnostic Approaches to Delirium Detection in Patients with Acute Stroke” led by Michael Reznik, M.D.
  • Rhode Island Hospital received $25,000 for “Role of PKD in Right Ventricular Dysfunction Under Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension” led by Bong Sook Jhun, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island Hospital was awarded $25,000 for “Challenges in Adolescent Transition to Adult HIV Care” led by Sabina Holland, M.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $21,743 for “Identification of Extemporaneously Prepared Oral Anticancer Therapy Stabilities” led by Britny (sic) Rogala, Pharm.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island was awarded $12,321 for “Utilization and Adverse Perinatal Outcomes of P2Y12 Agents in Pregnant Women” led by Xuerong Wen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $24,911 for “Digital Electrochemistry: Ion-Selective Nanoparticles for Biomedical Analysis” led by Jiyeon Kim, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island was awarded $24,914 for “Appropriate Care and Associated Outcomes in Women with Metastatic Breast Cancer” led by Ami Vyas, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Novel Biomimetic Inhalable Nanoparticles for Sustained Lung Cancer Drug Delivery” led by Jyothi Menon, Ph.D.
  • Women & Infants Hospital was awarded $16,259 for “Improving Obstetric Care to Underserved Rhode Island Women: Expanding the Role of Prison Health” led by Erin Christine Brousseau, M.D.

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

The funding came through 20 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, MD Memorial Fund. Marquise d'Andigne Fund, Mary A. Young Cancer Fund, Phebe Parker Fund, Richard N. and Beverly E. Carr Fund and Samuel J. and Esther Chester Medical Research Fund.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.