Indiana University
IU School of Medicine Deans' office updates and perspectives on IUSM research

The Wilkes Blog

Credit Where Credit is Due

We’ve got good people here at the IU School of Medicine and it’s time for some kudos to those who’ve recently been recognized for their work (and as a result, will also be spreading the word about IUSM). In no particular order:

Two of our young faculty members, Jie Sun and Henrique Serezani, have been selected as associate scientific advisers to the scientific journal Science Translational Medicine, a sister publication of the journal Science. Their tasks will be to write monthly “Editor’s Choice” articles about current papers from other journals in their areas of interest, crafting summaries of 300 words or so in language that, in the words of the journal’s editor, “is understandable to a broad range of scientists.”

Sun, an assistant professor of pediatrics and of microbiology and immunology, is interested in the regulation of immune response during acute respiratory virus infections. Serezani, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, is interested in diabetes and sepsis — how sepsis, even after it’s been effectively treated, can leave patients susceptible to secondary infections.

Meanwhile, two of our pediatrics faculty, Stephanie Davis and Brenda Poindexter, have been elected to three-year terms on the Society for Pediatrics Research Council, the leadership group for the national academic pediatrics organization. Davis is section director, pediatric pulmonology, allergy and sleep medicine. Poindexter is principal investigator for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Neonatal Research Network at IU.

But Davis and Poindexter are adding to an already strong IU presence on the SPR Council. Stephanie Ware, newly appointed professor of pediatrics and of medical and molecular genetics will finish her three-year term in May. Pediatric endocrinologist Linda DiMeglio is in her second year on the council, and David Ingram is the past president of the society and will be leaving the council in May. All-in-all, a strong presence for IU pediatrics.

And finally, as many of you know, Aaron Carroll, director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, and several colleagues have made the Incidental Economist the go-to blog on health policy over the past several years. Now Carroll and his fellow blogger, Austin Frakt, have agreed to contribute their perspectives to the New York Times’ new Upshot venture. Upshot, according to The Times, will work to “demystify politics, economics and other subjects.” (Their work on the Incidental Economist will continue.)

PRMC committees are operating and ready for your proposals

Filed under: Basic science,Clinical research,Grants,Research — Tags: , , — David Wilkes on March 11, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

The Peer Review and Mentoring Committees, or PRMCs, that I mentioned awhile back are now up and running and accepting proposals from faculty seeking assistance on resubmissions of grants that were scored on the initial submission.

Proposals are submitted at the Indiana CTSI Hub – go to

The PRMCs are teams of clinical research and basic science faculty with expertise in grantsmanship and mentoring. Each team also has a project manager and a biostatistician assigned to it.

The initial committees are focusing on three of the IU School of Medicine’s important thematic areas: neuroscience, chaired by Mike Vasko; cardiovascular disease, chaired by Mike Sturek; and obesity/metabolism, co-chaired by Aaron Carroll and Bob Considine.

This is a great opportunity to improve our grant success rates — please take advantage of it!

Our Industry Collaboration Portal: Meet the Director

Last week I wrote about our new Industry Collaboration Portal, a mechanism to boost our collaborations with industry, to leverage our research successes into new products and therapies, to develop new entrepreneurial initiatives and, not incidentally, bring in new sources of funding for research.

Now there’s an opportunity to learn more about the portal project and to meet our new portal director, JaiPal Singh, Ph.D., who is joining the School as visiting professor of Cellular & Integrative Physiology  – he officially starts April 1.

Dr. Singh brings extensive experience in drug discovery development, having served as cardiovascular research head and research advisor at Eli Lilly and Co., as chief scientific officer and vice president of research at St. Joseph Translational Research Institute and Emory Healthcare System, Atlanta, as well scientific advisor to several biotechnology companies and founder of his own firm, Prana Biotech.

He will be discussing “Opportunities and Challenges of Industry Collaboration on Translating Discoveries in Academic Labs” at noon on Tuesday, April 8, as part of the Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology’s seminar series. The meeting will be in MS 326 — I hope to see you there.


A new initiative to boost our collaborations with industry

Filed under: Basic science,Clinical research,Grants,Research — Tags: , , — David Wilkes on February 17, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

Industry has questions, but we in academic medicine rarely know what those questions are. Meanwhile, at the IU School of Medicine we have scientists with the expertise to provide answers, but industry doesn’t know who they are. So we have a plan — we’re calling it the Industry Collaboration Portal.

The ICP will be a mechanism, starting this year, to boost our collaborations with industry to leverage our research successes into new products and therapies, develop new entrepreneurial initiatives and, not incidentally, bring in new sources of funding for research.

This is important at a time of decreased federal funding for research, mounting pressures to invest in more translational science, and growing industry interest in working with academic researchers.

The portal will have a director who will serve as the primary contact between industry and the School. The director’s job will be to meet with industries to learn the questions they need answered, the research projects they want to start. The portal director will then report back to a faculty committee, chaired by Merv Yoder, assistant dean for entrepreneurial research, that will have the basic and clinical research expertise and knowledge of the school to identify candidates to work with those companies.

Let’s say that our neighbors at Eli Lilly and Co. need someone with expertise in a particular complication of diabetes. Nowadays they might search through the scientific literature to find someone. Our goal is to make our portal the one-stop shop they can use to find the expert they need at the IU School of Medicine.

We’re just getting started and much is yet to be done. Members of the faculty committee need to be selected, along with an outside advisory committee. We’ll be sitting down with the IURTC to work out intellectual property considerations. And the new director will need time to build up contacts and relationships with industry.

But by this summer we hope to be underway, providing the academic research support that industry scientists say they need — if they only knew where to find it.

TRI: A plan for moving research forward at the IU School of Medicine

Many of our faculty are familiar with the Transformation Research Initiative (TRI) — in fact many of our faculty worked hard to create it. On Monday, Dean Jay Hess announced the plan.

TRI is our new strategic plan for research at the IU School of Medicine, a path to the changes we need to make the School’s research enterprise as competitive as we need it to be in the coming years.

Let me repeat up what I’ve emphasized in many meetings: This plan was created by the faculty at the School of Medicine, with input from our health sciences partners and schools at IU. This is not the “David Wilkes Transforming Research Initiative,” nor is it the “Jay Hess Transforming Research Initiative, it is “our” initiative for the School of Medicine. (You can download the executive summary here.)

The TRI boils down to six fundamental goals in an era of tight research funding, team science, health care reform, an emphasis on translational research and the need to focus our efforts if we are to maintain our standing among research-intensive schools of medicine:

  1. Development of research themes: Schoolwide input led to the establishment of seven themes, three of which (cancer, cardiovascular disease and neuroscience) are key elements of the Strategic  Research Initiative with IU Health. The others are:
    • Obesity/Metabolism
    • Personalized Medicine
    • Health Services Research (with population health a key component)
    • Regenerative Medicine
  2. Increased focus on team science
  3. Improved research communication
  4. Evaluating, rationalizing and reorganizing our research cores, centers and institutes
  5. Focusing on and improving faculty recruitment and retention
  6. Improving our mentoring systems

Although this plan is now official, steps to implement these goals have already started. The Peer Review and Mentoring Committees (PRMC) I’ve discussed previously are set to start work in March. We’ve hired a recruitment specialist in the Office of Faculty Affairs and we created the position of Assistant Dean for Research Mentoring nearly a year ago.

Those are just first steps, and the goals are something we all have to work toward.

New review committees to help make our grant proposals more competitive

Filed under: Faculty,Grants,Research — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Wilkes on January 27, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

If you are an IU School of Medicine scientist working to get funding, here’s a new mantra word for you: Promise.

Promise as in Peer Review and Mentoring Committees, or PRMC.

Promise as in we promise to get better at submitting, and successfully competing, for external grants at the School.

We can’t do much about budget gridlock in DC and ever-tightening paylines at the NIH, but we can set up a system to do a better job of submitting and winning grants.

To meet this promise we’ve created three new project development committees within the CTSI meant to do what their names imply: use the experience and expertise of some of our successful scientists to review and advise colleagues who are working on grant proposals. These aren’t just for new proposals — the PRMCs will help investigators improve “A1″ resubmissions of applications that are promising but didn’t quite score well enough to be awarded. With the right changes, a good number of these proposals could be pushed into the “funded” category.

We know this system is effective. It’s worked at the Wells Center for Pediatric Research, where they’ve invested some $800,000 in such mentoring efforts and have seen some $16 million in returns on that investment. And the CTSI’s project development teams have leveraged returns of more than $65 million with a $4 million investment — but the PRMCs will be focusing on all types of science: basic as well as translational/clinical.

We’ve put together teams of clinical research and basic science faculty with proven track records in grantsmanship and mentoring. In addition, each team will have a project manager assigned to help keep the process moving, and a biostatistician to provide that critical advice.

We’re starting off with committees in three of our important thematic areas: neuroscience, chaired by Mike Vasko; cardiovascular disease, chaired by Mike Sturek; and obesity/metabolism, co-chaired by Aaron Carroll and Bob Considine.

The committees are getting themselves organized now but we’re expecting them to be up and running by March 1.  Stay tuned for more information about where and how to submit your application…..I “promise.”

Help create an IUSM resource for training grants

Filed under: Faculty,Grants,Research — Tags: , , , , , — David Wilkes on December 19, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

If you have a training grant, are trying to get one or are just thinking about submitting for one, Randy Brutkiewicz and his colleagues in the Graduate Division are creating a resource for you.

They are putting materials related to training grants in an OnCourse site to create what we expect will be a valuable resource for both existing and future training grant recipients.

As part of the process the Graduate Division is soliciting materials, including entire applications that have been funded, applications that were not funded, as well as Summary Statements.

Access to the site will be restricted — you’ll need permission from the Graduate Division (along with your IU email credentials) and must agree not to copy and use any of the materials except boilerplate sections. Steps will also be taken to ensure that grant documents on the site can only be viewed, not copied or printed.

Compared with our peers the IU School of Medicine ought to have more training grants, so this should be a great resource for both current and potential PIs as we work to increase that number.

If you have grant documents to submit, or want to make use of the resource, get in touch with Randy Brutkiewicz at 274-3441 or

For additional information on the support available to departments for grants, please visit

Now hear this: IACUC amendments are easier than you think!

Filed under: IACUC,Research — Tags: , , — David Wilkes on October 24, 2013 @ 9:58 am

Many of us doing research with animals have been frustrated with, or confused by, the process of making amendment to protocols. I feel your pain — but I’ve got good news.  The IUSM IACUC has approved changes to speed up approval of relatively simple amendments, which can be approved by IACUC leadership within three days.

There are now three levels of amendment review available — and note that you can include as many changes as you need in one amendment. You do not have to submit one amendment per change. Repeat: You do not have to submit one amendment per change.

So here are the levels of amendments, starting with those with the shortest turnaround time:

1. Administrative – These are changes the IACUC staff can approve within 2 days in consultation with the IACUC chair and/or their designee. Administrative amendments include:

  • Addition of another strain or genetic background of the same animal species
  • Changes in title of protocol
  • Change in funding source
  • Addition of a qualified student or technician
  • Addition of faculty collaborator
  • Change in sex of animal to be used
  • Small increase (<10%) in the number of animals used
  • Change in animal care facility, housing unit, or field site

2. IACUC Leadership Review (ILR) – This is a two to three-day review for minor amendments — modifications to approved activities that aren’t considered significant. Like these:

  • Request to repeat an experiment
  • Addition of a procedure to be performed on an already anesthetized animal
  • Addition of non-invasive sampling
  • Addition of sample collection times
  • Change in administration of treatment/observation as it relates to timing, dose, route of administration, and/or specific chemical composition
  • Change in anesthetic agent
  • Addition of testing compound of similar drug class as previously approved
  • Refinement in techniques

3. Designated Member Review (DMR) – You need this for significant modifications of approved activities, i.e. those not included above. This is a two-week review by designated members of the IACUC committee.  Please note that any necessary approvals by other compliance committees could extend the time to approval. However, if you’re facing an unusual time crunch that demands faster action, explain the situation to the IACUC staff and ask for an expedited review.

Finally, when you submit an amendment, please let the IACUC staff know in what category you believe it belongs.

Questions? Contact the IACUC office at 278-1274 or

And big thanks to the IACUC team, including Chair Joe Unthank and LARC Director Deb Hickman.


Good news about a strong research team getting stronger

The government shutdown on top of sequestration on top of ever-tightening paylines at the NIH would be enough to put anyone in a gloomy mood, so it’s a good time to remember that we work at an institution that is attracting and keeping top talent.

Just since I took on my new blogging “career” in the spring we’ve seen the arrival of several researchers who add to our considerable research strengths at IUSM, thanks in part to resources provided by the Strategic Research Initiative and the Physician Scientist Initiative. For example:

  • The Glick Eye Institute has welcomed the arrival of husband-and-wife team of Michael Boulton and Maria Grant from the University of Florida. Dr. Boulton is the first director of basic science research and holds the Merrill Grayson Senior Chair in Ophthalmology. His research has focused on age-related changes in the retina and retinal neovascularization. Dr. Grant is the first to hold the Marilyn K. Glick Senior professorship, and her work focuses on understanding and repairing the damage to blood vessels in the eye as a result of diabetes.
  • In cardiology, meanwhile, we’ve welcomed Ching-Pin Chang from Stanford University, whose work focuses on the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular development and disease.
  • Also newly arrived on campus, from Thomas Jefferson University, is another research team couple, Teresa Zimmers and Leonidas Koniaris. Dr. Koniaris is a surgical oncologist and Dr. Zimmers a research scientist — their research focuses on mechanisms regulating tissue growth in cancer and other diseases.

On another positive note, construction of the new IU Neuroscience Research Building is proceeding well, and at this point we project construction will be completed by the end of February, furniture move-in will begin in March, and the phased move-in for the building’s new occupants will be done by May 1.


Team science questions? Get your answers Sept. 9

Filed under: Research,Team science/collaboration,Transforming Research Initiative,TRI — David Wilkes on August 29, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

Team science will — does — play an important role in modern biomedical research. Team science is a key part of our Transforming Research Initiative strategic plan, which is complete and will be disseminated soon. And at IUSM, we’re determined that team science will not be just a buzzword.

That commitment is why we’ve arranged for Michelle Bennett, deputy scientific director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to visit the campus on Monday, Sept. 9, for a full day — a very full day — of presentations and meetings on this important topic.

The implications of team science go well beyond the logistics of putting together a multi-disciplinary group of researchers and telling them to have at it. What makes an effective team, and why do some succeed and others struggle? What are the implications for publishing, promotion and tenure? What sort of support must come from institutions like IUSM if teams are to succeed? What does an emphasis on team science mean for our traditional methods of mentoring and training the next generation of scientists?

Everyone in the IU community is invited to attend Dr. Bennett’s town hall presentation that morning starting at 8 a.m. in Walther Hall — you can register here. I can’t think of a better way to start the week than with one of the co-authors of Collaboration and Team Science: A Field Guide. You can download it here, and I urge you do so.

Also, we’re recommending that people visit the NIH’s team science web site before the presentation.

I hope to see you on the 9th.

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