Image of College of Pharmacy faculty member speaking with graduate students

University of Kentucky Takes Team Approach to Research

September 12, 2017

This summer, University of Kentucky’s Igniting Research Collaborations (IRC) awarded almost $300,000 in pilot grants to support cross-college interdisciplinary research and scholarship. This collaborative approach to science further enables research focused on health conditions prominent in the Commonwealth and beyond.


This year the IRC received 49 applications in its original request for proposal submissions. The proposals were judged based on their cross-college, multidisciplinary research, the degree of innovation, and the perceived probability of success, in terms of sustainability beyond the period of pilot funding and significance of the potential contributions and outcomes. A total of 10 pilot projects were selected for funding, involving 25 faculty members, representing 8 UK colleges, and the distribution of $290,000 in funding.


The IRC seeks to increase scientific engagement across campus and take advantage of the potential to develop new collaborative research teams with complimentary expertise and unique perspective to tackle important problems faced by the Commonwealth. UK is one of about eight universities in the nation with the full range of undergraduate, graduate, professional, medical and agricultural programs on one campus. Linda Dwoskin, Associate Dean of Research at the UK College of Pharmacy notes, “Programs like the IRC give us the opportunity to drive discovery and find creative solutions to complex problems in Kentucky. Ultimately, we’re transforming patient-centered care by facilitating collaborative and team-science research.”


The success of the IRC program has been outstanding. Since its inception, a total of $681,000 have been awarded to IRC pilot projects, and 17 new grant proposals have been submitted to extramural funding agencies.


Thus far, $11,727,139 in new extramural funds directly emanating from the IRC investment have been received.


For the 2017 IRC activity, the Deans of the Colleges of Pharmacy, Public Health, Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Engineering, Medicine, Arts & Sciences, and Dentistry contributed funds, as did the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).


“The impact of the IRC is far reaching,” said Jill Kolesar, a recipient of two IRC grants, as well as faculty at UK College of Pharmacy and co-chair of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Molecular Tumor Board. “These types of grants help us think outside the box and begin collaborations with experts in a variety of fields. I’ll be working with my colleagues in Engineering, Chemistry, and Pharmacy to further cancer research and better enable precision medicine. These funds open up channels across campus, allowing for innovative solutions.”


Vince Venditto, faculty at the College of Pharmacy and a co-collaborator on one of Kolesar’s grants elaborates, “The IRC clearly promotes creative and innovative thinking. It’s another example of how UK actively works to enable meaningful partnerships across colleges. This team-based approach to research allows our students to receive interdisciplinary training and get creative in their thinking. We’re broadening their education while ultimately improving patient care.”  


The full list of funded 2017 IRC pilot projects are listed below.


  • Targeted separation of patient derived cells for high throughput generation of exosome like vesicles for personalized medicine therapy:  Kolesar (COP/COM); Richards (A&S); Berron (ENG); Venditto (COP)


  • Qualifying industrial hemp CBD oils for studies on brain development:  Williams (CAFÉ); Chappell/Pauly (COP)


  • Evaluating online cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce stress, insomnia and sedative hypnotic use in Appalachian women aged 45+ :  Moloney (A&S), Moga (COP/CPH); Badour (A&S)


  • Gold-based ligand discovery for c-Myc inhibition using microarrays:  Awuah (A&S/COP); Berron (ENG)


  • Improving effectiveness of interventions for co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder:  Badour (A&S); Rush (COM)


  • Biogeochemical characterization of backwater wetlands for improving water quality in disturbed Appalachian watersheds on the Ohio river:  Ford (CAFÉ); Erhardt (A&S)


  • Investigation of the antiepileptic potential of docosahexaenoic acid in a knockout mouse of Lafora disease:  Sunderam (ENG); Gentry (COM); Pauly (COP)


  • Fluid balance and traumatic brain injury:  Bachstetter/Han (COM); Santollo (A&S); Glueck (COHS)


  • Development of inhibitors against Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) gingipains:  Gonzalez (DEN); Tsodikov/Tsodikova (COP)


  • Identification of novel therapeutics strategies for colorectal cancer based on genomic profiling:  Kolesar (COP/COM); Zaytseva (COM); Wang (CPH)i