Donaghue Investigator Program Awards New Grants to Yale For Research on Spinal Cord Injuries, Cancer Metastasis, Elderly

Five Yale University researchers have been awarded $100,000-a-year, five-year grants from the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation, the foundation’s first awards through the Donaghue Investigator Program for Health-related Research.

Their research will include alleviating anxiety in children before surgery, identifying biological markers to help predict metastasis of cancer tumors, reducing delirium and functional decline in hospitalized older persons, and regenerating neurons after spinal cord injury.

Yale received five of the foundation’s six grants this year, which are designed to support the work of a select number of investigators who have formal appointments at Connecticut’s nonprofit research institutions.

“This new and unique program provides grants to particularly promising medical researchers who have demonstrated exceptional potential for an outstanding independent research career and for leadership in their fields of research,” said Raymond S. Andrews Jr., co-trustee of the Donaghue Foundation with Fleet Bank. He added that the researchers represent “a wide range of scientific study promising practical benefit to Connecticut’s citizens and to human health.”

During this first grant cycle, 73 investigators submitted applications. This year’s grantees come from the fields of developmental biology, genetics, geriatrics, pediatrics, cancer and neurology. The 1998 Donaghue Investigators at Yale are:

* Mark B. Gerstein, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, who will conduct a large-scale analysis of gene sequences and protein structures that will be relevant to understanding the molecular basis of diseases that have been genetically characterized.

* Sharon K. Inouye, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine, Yale School of Medicine, who will conduct a study at Yale-New Haven Hospital on reducing delirium and functional decline in hospitalized older persons. This study will deal with reducing length of hospital stays and improving health outcomes for the elderly.

* Zeev Kain, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics, who will identify children who are prone to preoperative anxiety and find ways to help decrease their stress and improve long-term outcomes.

* David Rimm, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, who will study adhesion protein expression as a predictor of cancer metastasis. Discovery of new biological markers in breast or melanoma tumors can greatly enhance early treatment of cancer patients.

* Stephen Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology, who will investigate axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury. Results could have major positive implications for victims of spinal cord injury and stroke.

Miss Ethel Donaghue, who created the foundation in her will, was oriented toward useful results. This philosophy of “practical benefit” helped to focus the development of the Donaghue Investigator Program, Andrews said.

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