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

The Wilkes Blog

A new business minor for our doctoral students

As many of you know, the IU School of Medicine is the second-largest medical school in the nation in terms of number of medical students enrolled — more than 1,300 now. But we also have a good number of doctoral students — just over 210, plus 46 enrolled in our M.D./Ph.D. program.

These are talented folks and many of them, it’s fair to say, have an eye on a career in academic research — just like their mentors. In fact, that’s what we’ve always done — and do — as mentors: We train these young doctoral students to be just like us. And these days, amid ever-tightening research funding and what many call a Ph.D. “glut,” more of the same is a disservice.

So starting with the spring 2015 semester, IUSM doctoral students will have the opportunity to pursue a new minor in the Business of Biomedical Sciences. This program was just approved by the IUPUI Graduate Office and IUPUI Executive Vice President Nasser Paydar.

Under the leadership of Randy Brutkiewicz, associate dean for graduate studies, we’ve put together a nine-credit minor incorporating existing courses from the schools of business, law and medicine as well as an eight-week internship. The program includes such courses as Translational Research and Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property of Pharmaceutical Products and Medical Devices.

Why do this? Whatever you think about the causes, cures or even existence of a Ph.D. glut, some of our grads have and will go on to careers outside academia. But that world, like ours, is changing fast and we want to help provide those grads with business and entrepreneurial tools that will be increasingly important whether they are working in health care systems, big pharma, biotech startups or careers grappling with intellectual property issues.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions, post them here or send a note to Randy at

Another stellar set of Showalter Scholars

Today we welcome a new class of Showalter Scholars, four outstanding young scientists at the IU School of Medicine who were nominated for this honor — and funding — as a result of their strong records of research and external awards.

This year’s Scholars, who exemplify the excellence here at the IU School of Medicine, are:

  • Rebecca Chan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics who joined the school in 2002. An investigator with the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research, Dr. Chan’s research centers on the etiology of phenotypic abnormalities found in Noonan syndrome and the childhood leukemia known as juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia.
  • Melissa Kacena, Ph.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, who joined the school in 2007. Dr. Kacena specializes in research into the regulation of bone mass and bone healing by megakaryocytes.
  • William Sullivan, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology. Dr. Sullivan, who joined the school in 2000, focuses his work on the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which both poses health threats to humans and serves as a model for malaria parasite research.
  • Mingjiang Xu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics. Dr. Xu, an investigator with the Wells Center for Pediatric Research who joined the school in 2011, focuses on the molecular mechanism of myeloid malignancies.

Each Showalter Scholar receives $75,000 over three years to support their research programs, with $25,000 the first year from the Showalter Trust, $25,000 the second year from the nominating department or center, and the third year’s installment from the School.

This is the second class of Showalter Scholars (last year’s Scholars were Aaron Carroll, Alex Robling, Robert Stahelin and Kenneth White) and eventually there will be 12 at any given time, as each year one group comes to the end of its three-year term and another group begins.

Once again, we’re grateful to the Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Research Trust Fund for its support of research at the School.

If you have someone in mind who would make a good Showalter Scholar candidate, the deadline for the next round of nominations from department chairs or center directors is the first business day of February, 2015.

We’re adding incentives to boost our training grant activity

Filed under: Basic science,Clinical research,Education,Faculty,Grants,Research — Tags: , , , , — David Wilkes on June 16, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

A quick note about training grants: Not long ago we took a look at these awards at the IU School of Medicine and it appeared to me that we haven’t attracted as many of these T32 grants as you might expect for a school our size. Right now we have just 13.

Obviously we spend a lot of time and effort on R01s and other significant research awards, but the value of T32s shouldn’t be overlooked. They help fund some great post-graduate work, they’re important for training the next generation of scientists, and they demonstrate the NIH’s confidence in our ability to train those investigators.

So to encourage more applications for T32 awards, we’re initiating annual support for new and competing renewal NIH training grants with payment of 5 percent paid effort for the PI (up to the NIH salary cap) and $15,000 for training-related expenses. (We want to encourage more submissions, so, sorry, this support is not retroactive.)

Don’t forget, as we announced December, Randy Brutkiewicz and his colleagues in the Graduate Division have put together a training grant resource site in OnCourse with copies of applications — funded and unfunded — summary statements and other related documents. The Graduate Division office also offers extensive help with the development of tables for training grants, and other resources.  Contact Randy about this.


Good news on the startup company front

Here at the IU School of Medicine, starting up businesses based on our research was not at the top of the priority list for a long time. But in the 2000s, partly due to the infusion of funds for the Indiana Genomics Initiative ($155 million from the Lilly Endowment) that started to change.

In the mid-2000s we saw a handful of companies formed based on our research discoveries, in a process that sometimes was painful to work through (I know this firsthand because I was involved with one of those companies: Immune Works, started in 2007).

The good news is that in the last couple of years, our entrepreneurial activities have leaped ahead. Through 2009, according to the IU Research and Technology Corp. (IURTC), nine startup companies had been formed with IURTC assistance. Since then, 21 more companies have started up.

That’s a nice startup mini-boom for which I give credit in several areas. For one, Merv Yoder has been doing great work as assistant dean for entrepreneurial research. Also, our technology transfer colleagues at the IURTC keep improving the system for turning our valuable IP into businesses. One of their recent successful initiatives has been the Spin Up program, which streamlines the process for our researchers. And finally, I think we’re developing a more entrepreneurial and translational mindset at the school, for which the Indiana CTSI has to get a lot of credit as well.

Questions or ideas? Contact Merv at, Marie Kerbeshian at IURTC at, or Joe Trebley,, who directs IURTC’s Spin Up program. Or leave me a comment here.

One more reason to use our peer review and mentoring committees

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Wilkes on April 30, 2014 @ 11:39 am

A recent policy change by the National Institutes of Health is just one more reason to take advantage of the services of our Peer Review and Mentoring Committees (PRMCs).

The PRMCs use the experience and expertise of some of our successful scientists to review and advise colleagues who are working on grant proposals — both new proposals and resubmissions.  Each of these committees also has a project manager and a biostatistician assigned to it to assist investigators.

Now the NIH has announced that proposals that do not get funded on resubmission no longer need to have their content and scope overhauled to be eligible for another try as a new submission.  This decision by the NIH to revise its resubmission policy makes the PRMCs an even better deal for research faculty.  Effective immediately, the PRMCs will not only assist with grant resubmissions, but will work with investigators on submissions of “new” proposals that were previously reviewed by NIH, but not funded.  This is an ideal opportunity for IUSM researchers to make use of the PRMCs and their expertise.

Initially, the PRMCs 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.

Proposals should be submitted at the Indiana CTSI Hub – go to: For more information, contact Tammy Sajdyk at CTSI.

Some good news on NIH grant resubmissions

Filed under: Basic science,Clinical research,Faculty,Grants,Research — Tags: , , , , , — David Wilkes on April 23, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

In these days of tight money for research, it’s nice to see some positive news out of Washington. This week the NIH announced it has changed its resubmission policy, backing off a bit from the 2009 decision to allow only one resubmission application of an unfunded grant proposal.

With that change in 2009, the NIH instituted a requirement that if the resubmission was not funded, it would need a major overhaul to both content and scope to be eligible for another try as a new submission.

This week the agency announced that proposals that didn’t get funded on resubmission will no longer need to be significantly redesigned to be submitted as a new application. However, the one-resubmission limit remains in effect.

It’s not easy to predict exactly how this will play out, but I’m hopeful it will mean more competitive submissions from IUSM research faculty as we struggle to maintain our funding levels. Now that good idea that didn’t quite make it on the first two attempts may get over the top with another tweak or two as a new submission.

What the change won’t produce, of course, is more money for NIH-funded research; hopefully, it will mean fewer good science proposals left on the table (or the floor) for policy reasons.

As for the tight money situation, well, that’s mostly another battle for another branch of government.

For more details about the change and the thinking behind it, have a look at the Extramural Nexus blog post by Sally Rockey, the NIH deputy director for extramural research.

For the details, you can read the actual policy notice.


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.

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