August 2014

Interdisciplinary Research Team Awarded $1.5 Million NIH Grant for Tumor Research

David Zaharoff, Twenty-First Century Professor in Biomedical Engineering

Researchers at the University of Arkansas have been awarded $1.5 million from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health to develop new molecules and biopharmaceuticals that enhance a patient’s immune response against tumors.

The goal of the five-year grant is to help clinicians attack hidden metastatic tumors and prevent cancer

recurrence, said David Zaharoff, the principal investigator for the project. Metastasis is the development of secondary malignancy away from the primary site of cancer.

“Metastasis, not the primary tumor, kills about 90 percent of cancer patients,” said Zaharoff, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “Our work has the potential to significantly reduce this percentage.”

Zaharoff refers to breast cancer as an example of the importance of striking at metastasis.

The overwhelming majority of breast cancers are detected early; tumors are removed and patients receive chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination, depending on the stage of disease.

For this project, titled “Biopolymer-based strategies for local delivery of cytokine therapeutics,” Zaharoff will collaborate with Suresh Kumar, associate professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Arkansas. Zaharoff will focus on delivery systems and biomaterials, while Kumar will focus on protein biochemistry.

“This project is a perfect example of the power of collaboration,” Zaharoff said. “Our progress would be significantly slower if it weren’t for Suresh and his lab. We have common goals, but diverse expertise, that complement each other very well. Our labs have been working together for a couple years, yet I feel that we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible.”

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NSF Grant Will Further Research on Models of Self-Assembling Systems

 

Matt Patitz

Matt Patitz, an assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering, will receive a nearly $440,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further his research in the development of theoretical and computational models of self-assembling systems.

The models simulate or mimic complex biological processes, such as evolution, self-replication and immune system behaviors, and the formation of prions, protein particles that may cause brain diseases. The models can be used to help scientists develop artificial self-assembling systems in laboratories and will make valuable contributions to the theoretical understanding of biological systems.

A variety of self-assembling systems exist in nature, occurring when individual molecules combine autonomously. They obey local rules of behavior with no external guidance or placement to form complex structures. This process is responsible for the formation of many inorganic structures, such as crystals (like snowflakes), and numerous biological structures, including cellular membranes and viruses.

Theoretical computer science has provided numerous insights into the creation and understanding of these systems.

Patitz is collaborating with other researchers to develop artificial self-assembling systems to create advanced materials and complex nanoscale structures and to perform molecular computing. They have conducted laboratory experiments as well as mathematical and computational modeling.

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Study Focuses on Celebrity Advertisements

Katie Kelting

Katie Kelting, a marketing researcher at the University of Arkansas, has found that when consumers are shown two ads featuring the same celebrity, they are more likely to forget information when the celebrity is endorsing a product that is only moderately associated with the celebrity’s fame.

When a product is either a really good or really bad fit with the reason for the celebrity’s fame, consumers are more likely to remember the information.

An example of a moderate fit would be the professional basketball player LeBron James featured in a State Farm Insurance advertisement. As an industry or product, insurance does not fit the nature of James’ celebrity. It’s a product that neither enhances his celebrity nor detracts from it.  
  
On the other hand, the study showed that consumers experience a relatively high level of recall when a celebrity endorses a product that is highly matched with the celebrity’s expertise or image, such as James selling basketball shoes or a sports drink.

“Our findings demonstrate that marketers should think hard, or at least be strategic, about using celebrities to sell their products,” Kelting said.

The study was published in Psychology and Marketing.

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University Participating in ‘Innovation Deficit’ Campaign

 

Jim Rankin

One year after launching a campaign to urge Congress and the president to close the nation’s innovation deficit, a group of prominent university, science and business organizations have renewed their call for increased federal investments in research to build a strong long-term economy, improve medical treatments and strengthen national security.

The “Close the Innovation Deficit” campaign, designed to raise awareness of cuts and stagnating federal investments in research and higher education, began on July 31, 2013, with an open letter to President Obama and Congress signed by more than 200 university presidents and chancellors, including University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart.

“We are very appreciative of the members of our congressional delegation from Arkansas,” said Jim Rankin, vice provost for research and economic development at the University of Arkansas. “With their help, the university has made strides in research funding in the last decade, which contributed to the institution being elevated to the highest possible classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“Our faculty, through funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, are making discoveries that will benefit society in years to come. But we could be doing so much more with increased federal investment in University of Arkansas research,” he said.

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IN THIS ISSUE

Interdisciplinary Research Team Awarded $1.5 Million for Tumor Research

NSF Grant Will Further Research on Models of Self-Assembling Systems

Study Focuses on Celebrity Advertisements

University Participating in ‘Innovation Deficit’ campaign

IN OTHER NEWS

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Industrial Engineering Graduate Focuses Research on Inland Waterway Disruption Response

McDermott Provides Expertise for AETN Film on Heat Illness

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Grant Award Winners

The following is a sampling of grants awarded to faculty in July, with the principal investigator, the award amount and the sponsor.
� David Deere, $535,215, U.S Department of Health and Human Services
� Jeff Wolchok, $395,722, National Science Foundation
� Jing Yang, $362,394, National Science Foundation
� Uchechukwu C. Wejinya, $358,565, National Science Foundation
� Ashok Saxena, $210,000, Chung-Ang University

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