Annual meeting features new format and focus on upcoming seed grants
Researchers from Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia gathered for the annual Regenerative Engineering and Medicine (REM) Research Center retreat, but this time, something was different.
It was a few things, actually. For one, the rotating event returned to the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience on the Georgia Tech campus after touching down at the other two universities the past few years. And this time, participants gathered earlier than ever before with even more focus, thanks to a new format.
“We decided this year to have a more dynamic, interactive environment by adding breakout sessions, where we can get smaller groups of faculty together to talk about the themes of interest to us in regenerative medicine,” says Johnna Temenoff, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and one of three co-directors of the REM.
The retreat was planned this time to coincide with the 2016-2017 Georgia Partners in Regenerative Medicine seed grant program, announced a day before the retreat, which was held on May 13. The seed grant program is intended to stimulate new, collaborative research among the REM partner institutions. The grants are due July 11, 2016.
“The timing was important, because it gives people an opportunity after the retreat to discuss grant ideas and put things together in a more focused way,” says Steve Stice, UGA professor and an REM co-director.
The preferred research themes are:
• Modulation of Immunity and Host Responses to Improve Regenerative Therapies (local and systemic means to modulate the host environment to create more effective regenerative therapies);
• Optimizing Regenerative Biomanufacturing (scaling up and/or predicting the quality/potency of regenerative therapies during processing, for example, new assays for potency prediction, or new bioreactor or material technologies to promote scale-up of regenerative therapies).
While all proposals for the seed grant are welcome, those responsive to the identified themes will be given funding priority for 2016-2017.
“You want the seed grants to have a return on investment,” says Ned Waller, Emory professor and REM co-director. “You want to advance the science that will lead to external funding, and by bringing people together now in a focused way, really getting them to start collaborating today, we hope that by July they’ll have a seed grant, and that a year from now it will lead to an R01.”
The RO1, or Research Project Grant, is the NIH’s oldest, most commonly used grant program, generally awarded for three to five years.
The retreat began with presentations from two researchers. Art Edison from UGA spoke about his lab’s focus on the use of ‘omics’ data for a variety of biologic questions. Muna Qayed of Emory spoke about the clinical uses of stem cells, based on her work in developing a treatment against graft versus host disease (GVHD).
Then, participants split up into breakout sessions that focused on the seed grant themes. These were open discussions that took place in morning and then later in the afternoon, with each group reporting back on the main discussion points from each session.
Meanwhile, as researchers talked about their ideas among themselves, a group of trainees gathered with Andrés García, professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and director of the interdisciplinary bioengineering graduate program, to pick up some networking tips.
The theme there was to make connections with peers and P.I.’s (at events like the REM retreat, for example) and learn the communication skills to augment the academics and the research, basically, “to stand out among the 400 applications we typically get for a single faculty position,” García says.
Most of the retreat attendees were particularly interested in the seed grants, which are intended to stimulate new, collaborative research among the three institutions. Each seed grant team must have at least two investigators and an equal partnership of faculty from two of the participating institutions. And this year, researchers have a better idea of which types of projects could receive funding.
“That was something we really wanted to do, pair the retreat with the call for seed grants,” Temenoff says. “This is a chance for researchers to come together and actually begin the grant planning process today.”
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