The Rutgers Brain Health Institute Pilot Program for Center and Program Project Grants announces two $125,000 pilot grant awards. The awardees were selected based on an external review conducted by experts from NIH study sections.

One award was to a team led by Dr. Danielle Dick, Director of Rutgers Addiction Research Center, for a project entitled- “An Integrated Approach to Build Precision Medicine for Substance Use Disorders to help obtain pilot data to apply for the NIDA Research Center of Excellence Grant Program. Dr. Dick’s team include six project and core leaders- Dr. David Zald, Dr. Jessica Salvatore, Dr. Tammy Chung, Dr. Chris Pierce. Dr. Nina Cooperman and Dr. Anna Konova, all from the Department of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS).

The second award was to a team led by Dr. Steven Levison, Professor of Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience at New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), for a project entitled- “Mechanisms of brain injury in premature infants and prospects for repair to help obtain pilot data to apply for the NINDS Program Project Grant Program. Dr. Levison’s research team includes Dr. Vadim Ten (RWJMS-Pediatrics), Dr. Yong Kim (RWJMS-Neurosurgery), Dr. Cheryl Dreyfus and Dr. Hiroko Nobuta (RWJMS-Neuroscience and Cell Biology) and Dr. Terri Wood (NJMS- Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience).

BHI congratulates the teams for winning these competitive awards!

Danielle Dick Team:

An Integrated Approach to Build Precision Medicine for Substance Use Disorders

This BHI pilot grant application seeks funds to establish the foundation for a NIDA Center of Excellence focused on building precision medicine approaches for substance use disorders (SUDs), for eventual submission to RFA PAR-23-076: NIDA Research Center of Excellence Grant Program. The eventual overarching center aims will be to: characterize heterogeneity among individuals seeking treatment for SUDs, using phenotypic, genomic, and neuroimaging data; test the extent to which clinical, behavioral, environmental, genomic, and neuroimaging data predict treatment response/relapse; use novel digital data collection tools to support positive treatment outcomes; test the extent to which providing personalized feedback on risk factors may increase treatment seeking among individuals presenting with early signs of risk; and use animal models to characterize molecular mechanisms of risk. The aims of this BHI center grant pilot application are to collect the preliminary data necessary for the eventual submission of this center grant, establish working relationships across the team, and demonstrate a history of collaboration between the PIs. The grant will establish collaborations across several new university centers and investigators who have been recruited to Rutgers over the past five years as part of a strategic expansion of addiction research. The application brings together expertise in neuroscience, genetics, neuroimaging, computational psychiatry, digital phenotyping, and clinical research to create an integrated approach to developing more targeted treatments and interventions for substance use disorders, which continue to be among the most costly health challenges our society faces.


Steven Levison Team:

Mechanisms of brain injury in premature infants and prospects for repair

Very low birth weight premature infants who require care in neonatal intensive units, experience repeated, brief episodes of intermittent hypoxemia (rIH) during the initial weeks of life. These rIH episodes are associated with diffuse white matter injury, the leading cause of neurologic morbidity and often intellectual disability, sensorimotor impairments and behavioral abnormalities. Here we propose to use a rIH mouse model that produces permanent sensorimotor deficits coupled with decreased cerebral myelin protein expression to identify the mechanisms of developmental brain matter injury due to rIH and to test therapeutics to promote repair. In addition, we will validate these mechanisms (AMPK activation, mTOR inhibition, failure of cholesterol synthesis) and therapeutics (mGluR5 agonists and LIF) using human oligodendrocyte progenitors in vitro exposed to rIH. As studies in babies and in murine models of preterm birth have shown that interneuron development also is disturbed, studies are proposed to establish whether rIH interferes with interneuron migration, maturation, mitochondrial function and myelination. We have outlined a series of experiments needed to produced key preliminary data to support a multi-investigator program project grant submission to the NINDS. Each of the experiments will involve at least 2 and often more team members. Thus, completing these studies will demonstrate that effective collaborations that cross departments and campuses have been established. Finally, we will initiate a training program for clinical fellows in neonatology to perform translational research that we envision will be an important aspect of our future PPG.