In 2018, the AGA Research Foundation was proud to provide more than $2 million in research funding to 41 investigators.
AGA’s flagship award, the AGA Research Scholar Award, was given to five exceptional early-career investigators who represent the future of GI research. In addition, one researcher was awarded the AGA-Takeda Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Read about the 2018 awardees’ research projects below.
Sarah Andres, PhD
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Project title: The mRNA-binding protein IMP1 regulates intestinal epithelial exosome biology during homeostasis and metastasis
Dr. Andres will use this award to delve more deeply into understanding how RNA-binding proteins regulate exosomes within the intestinal and colonic epithelium and how this plays a part in health and disease. RNA-binding proteins provide an exquisite layer of biological regulation to gene expression and downstream cellular processes, which is only beginning to be appreciated. Dr. Andres’ long-term hope is that her work will improve the diagnosis, treatment and ultimately survival of patients with colon cancer.
Swathi Eluri, MD, MSCR
University North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Project title: Improving Barrett’s esophagus screening practices in primary care
Dr. Eluri’s AGA-funded project will gather data to develop and test a multilevel screening intervention for Barrett’s esophagus to be implemented in primary care. The ultimate goal of her work is to improve esophageal adenocarcinoma detection. Given our highly effective endoscopic therapies for early neoplasia in Barrett’s esophagus, early detection has the potential to yield substantial benefits for patients.
Jill Hoffman, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles
AGA-Takeda Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Project title: Characterization of CRHR2-mediated enteric glial cell function during colitis
Dr. Hoffman will use her AGA-Takeda funding to define a role for corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) signaling in enteric glial cell function and determine CRHR2-dependent crosstalk between enteric glial cells and the intestinal epithelium during inflammation. Through research aimed at understanding the basic mechanisms of cell-to-cell signaling during intestinal inflammation, Dr. Hoffman hopes to determine how to harness these pathways to limit inflammation and promote repair in patients with IBD.
Elizabeth Jensen, MPH, PhD
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Project title: Early-life factors, gene-environment interaction and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)
With this funding, Dr. Jensen will conduct the largest study to date on early-life factors and EoE, using data that have been collected prospectively through population-based registries in Denmark. Ultimately, Dr. Jensen hopes her research will lead to advancements in our understanding of etiologic factors for development of immune-mediated GI diseases, such as EoE, and will lead to the identification of modifiable factors for disease prevention.
Sumera Rizvi, MD
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Project title: Necrosis enhances tumor immunogenicity and augments cholangiocarcinoma tumor suppression in combination with PD-L1 blockade
Dr. Rizvi’s research is focused on elucidating immunogenic cell death mechanisms and exploring novel, immune-mediated therapeutic approaches in cholangiocarcinoma. This work has the potential to open novel therapeutic avenues for treatment of cholangiocarcinoma, which will ultimately improve the outcomes of patients with this devastating malignancy.
Niels Vande Casteele, PhD
University of California, San Diego
Project title: Identifying optimal thresholds & personalized dosing regimens of infliximab to maximize endoscopic remission rates in patients with ulcerative colitis
Dr. Vande Casteele’s research project is all about determining the right drug for the right patient at the right time using the right dose. By studying optimal thresholds and personalized dosing regimens of infliximab, Dr. Vande Casteele will build the basis for exposure-based dosing regimens that can be applied to other anti-TNF antibodies and antibodies with other targets used in the treatment of patients with IBD, as well as other chronic inflammatory diseases and/or oncology. Dr. Vande Casteele’s goal is for his work to have a direct impact on patients by allowing us to achieve better treatment outcomes with minimal side effects.