Priming the Pump


An NIH-funded collaboration is kick-starting research on the No. 1 killer of humans

Across the city of Providence, an unlikely team of researchers is emerging. A developmental biologist with row upon row of tiny fish tanks in her lab. A geneticist who seeks to understand the building blocks of human life, and by extension, human disease. A cardiologist who spends hours poring over ultrasounds, looking for clues to cure his patients.

These doctors and scientists are just a few of the dozen researchers involved in Brown’s CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, or CPVB COBRE for short. It’s a mouthful of a name, but one that’s fitting for its ambitious mission: to both study the root cause of diseases that affect the heart and lungs, and to find new cures.

That’s a tall order. Cardiopulmonary diseases ranging from asthma to arteriosclerosis remain the leading cause of death for American patients. They develop in a wide variety of ways, and have an equally broad range of treatments. But they often have a common connection: many cardiopulmonary diseases stem not just from problems in the heart or lungs, but in the blood vessels that support them. That’s where this group of researchers is focusing.

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CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology Center

VA Cardiopulmonary Research Center of Excellence Renewed

PROVIDENCE, RI | August 7, 2018 — The National Institute for General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health awarded the CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, a renewal grant of $10 million July 20, 2018, through the Ocean State Research Institute, or OSRI.

Known as the CPVB COBRE, the center is located at the Providence VA Medical Center and led by principal investigators, Drs. Sharon Rounds and Elizabeth Harrington, and the program administrator, Susan McNamara.

“We look forward to expanding our team of outstanding investigators and the scope of our research in vascular biology,” said Rounds. “This kind of interdisciplinary, cooperative research is important because the heart and lungs function interdependently, and many Veterans suffer from conditions affecting these organs, as do many others in the general population.”

“The CPVB COBRE sparked a remarkable coalescence of cross-disciplinary scholars and researchers in vascular biology,” said Dr. Jack Elias, dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. “We look forward to accelerated growth in vascular biology research now that the NIH is funding this important inter-institutional collaboration for another five years.”

The phase II award will fund new and continuing initiatives for five years, and supports mentored investigators Dr. Alan Morrison at the Providence VAMC; Dr. Hongwei Yao, Dr. Yang Zhou and Dr. Jessica Plavicki at Brown University; and Dr. Sean Monaghan at Rhode Island Hospital. The grant also supports pilot project research grants in the area of vascular biology in addition to two research cores: 1) Administrative, and 2) Cell Isolation and Organ Function.

“The renewal of the COBRE grant by NIH is acknowledgement of the outstanding cardiac, pulmonary and vascular research being conducted here,” said Dr. Robert Swift, president of OSRI. “We’re very proud of our investigators and research staff based at the Providence VA Medical Center, the Alpert Medical School at Brown University and its affiliated hospitals.”

OSRI is a non-profit corporation affiliated with the Providence VA Medical Center. Its mission is to promote and conduct research and education activities to improve the health and lives of Veterans.

Photo caption (photo available upon request):
CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology Center of Biomedical Research Excellence principal investigators Dr. Sharon Rounds, left, and Dr. Elizabeth Harrington meet in Harrington’s office at the Providence VA Medical Center June 2, 2018. The center received a five-year, $10 million renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health July 20, 2018, through the Ocean State Research Institute. (Providence VA Medical Center photo by Martha Mickles)