June 2021 GRA Notes from the Georgia Research Alliance
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UGA to blaze new trails in study of molecular structures

The University of Georgia will help shape a new approach to exploring molecular worlds, thanks to a $40 million grant from the National Science Foundation. UGA is one of three universities sharing the grant to create a Network for Advanced NMR (NAN) in the U.S., which will give scientists access to ultra-high field nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers. Led by GRA Eminent Scholar Art Edison, UGA will use the grant to purchase and install a 1.1 GHz NMR spectrometer, one of the most powerful of its kind in the world. UGA will also develop new methods for using the spectrometer and for managing the massive data sets that it produces – mostly to advance the fields of structural biology and metabolomics. “We want to create an easy way for scientists to discover what is available to them, even if they aren’t NMR experts themselves,” Edison says. GRA’s investment in an 800 MHz NMR spectrometer years ago help set UGA on its path to specialization in this area of research. • More on UGA’s big win for Georgia >

Augusta Scholar affirms value of plant-based diet

A diet of plants and grains appears to protect rats bred to develop high blood pressure from a high-salt diet — as well as protect pregnant rats from preeclampsia — according to two new studies from GRA Eminent Scholar David Mattson. A renowned expert in hypertension at Augusta University, Mattson discovered that rats consuming food high in salt had much lower blood pressure and less kidney damage if they’d previously been consuming a plant-based diet. Mattson and colleagues also found that rats consuming wheat-based chow were better protected from the dangerous pregnancy complication preeclampsia. “Importantly, these differences were observed over more than a decade, a clear indication that developing salt-sensitive hypertension isn’t the result of simply consuming more salt,” Mattson says. • Read a news release on Mattson’s discovery >

Emory scientist wins NIH grant to advance work

SARS-CoV-2 may have dominated the news over the past 18 months, but antibiotic-resistant bacteria remain one of the greatest threats to human health. GRA Distinguished Investigator Bill Wuest of Emory has been developing new therapeutics to fight this threat — and in June, NIH renewed funding of his research with a five-year, $2.18 million grant. Wuest studies natural products that have promise for fighting different forms of bacteria, then designs and makes synthetic, or “analog,” versions of them in the lab. To help combat antibiotic resistance, Wuest focuses on developing new compounds to battle specific bacteria as opposed to antibiotics that have broad application. He notes that during the pandemic, the increased use of antibacterial cleaning products and antibiotics have rendered compounds less effective — making his exploration timely and important. Wuest was also promoted this spring to full professor at Emory. • Read a feature on Wuest’s research >

Will it work? Initiative led by Augusta scientist will help researchers answer that question

"Will my bold research idea work?" Scientists exploring select areas of health can get time and money to answer that question, thanks to a new NIH initiative being led by GRA Distinguished Investigator Richard McIndoe at Augusta University. Funded by a $6.2 million grant, the Innovative Science Accelerator (ISAC) initiative will enable scientists to pursue high-risk/high-reward research ideas in kidney disease, the urinary tract, blood and bone marrow and male reproduction. ISAC awards scientists one-time $100,000 grants to fund a year’s worth of exploration. “If [the idea] works, they will be able to use the data they generate to apply for a larger grant,” McIndoe says. GRA Eminent Scholar David Mattson is part of a local ISAC Working Group that will advise McIndoe on the initiative. McIndoe, who directs the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, is well-prepared to manage the effort: He’s overseen two other innovative NIH funding approaches. (Above: McIndoe, center, with working group members Mattson and Betty Pace.)More on the grant and initiative >

Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute names director

Renowned physician and scientist Suresh Ramalingam will take the helm of Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University starting July 1, the university announced this month. A onetime GRA Distinguished Cancer Clinician and Scientist, Ramalingam has helped lead Winship as deputy director for the past five years and has served as assistant dean for cancer research at Emory. In the years ahead, he’ll preside over the opening of a 17-story cancer facility in midtown Atlanta and oversee Winship’s pursuit of renewed NCI designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. In April, the American Cancer Society appointed Ramalingam editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal CANCER.Learn about Ramalingam’s appointment >

Calhoun honored by international society

Our congratulations to GRA Eminent Scholar Vince Calhoun, who was selected this month as a 2021 Fellow by the Organization of Human Brain Mapping (OHBM). The international society is dedicated to using neuro-imaging to explore how the brain is organized; Calhoun was honored for “academic and intellectual leadership in the disciplines represented by the society.” Calhoun is an Eminent Scholar at Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Emory. • A few more details on Calhoun's honor >

A force for Georgia: Remembering Pete Correll

Our state lost an invaluable leader and philanthropist May 25 with the passing of Alston D. “Pete” Correll. Pete was a former Trustee of the Georgia Research Alliance, and his service to GRA was one of the many corporate and civic roles he played to make our world better. A onetime student of Georgia Tech — and later, a graduate of the University of Georgia — Pete is best known for leading Georgia-Pacific Corp. through critical business transitions and spearheading the rescue of Grady Memorial Hospital from financial ruin. He was also a longtime supporter of UGA, which in a tribute this month called Pete “one of its most accomplished, supportive and proud alumni.” We at GRA will always be grateful for Pete’s steadfast support of higher education, research and entrepreneurship. • Visit UGA’s tribute page >

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