Assistant professor in chemical engineering receives $1.8M NIH MIRA grant
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Dr. Ashlee N. Ford Versypt has received a grant for $1.8 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund her research on Quantitative Systems Biomedicine and Pharmacology for Multiscale Tissue Damage.
Ford Versypt and her research team will develop computational tools for investigating how different diseases and pathogens affect the body’s balance between the construction and decomposition of fibrous structures. For example, they will strive to answer questions like, “What causes a person’s body to over-produce or under-produce fibrous structures?” Conditions where these processes are unbalanced include cancers, osteoporosis, arthritis and fibrosis of various organs.
The grant through the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) R35 funding mechanism, within the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences (NIGMS), will allow Ford Versypt’s lab to not solely focus on one particular disease but instead a multitude of conditions, as well as perform research on different levels of impact, from cellular and tissue levels to the whole body. Ford Versypt hopes that the research will allow clinical medical professionals to better predict how a certain condition will interact with different tissue systems in the body, thus allowing for better treatment and possible reduction of those conditions’ impacts on patients. The research will primarily focus on inflammatory and immune suppressive disease conditions.
“The grant gives an external validation that is nationally competitive and brings about recognition for the work I do and the work that can be done at Oklahoma State University,” Ford Versypt said. “This brings positive attention to OSU and to the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.”
The $1.8 million will allow Ford Versypt to recruit high-level graduate students to OSU and CEAT with the reassurance that their research will be funded during their graduate studies.
Ford Versypt is currently conducting interviews for additional graduate students to be added to her lab, and she is very excited about the ability to focus more of her time on mentoring junior scientists and conducting research instead of worrying about where the next bit of funding will come from. According to the NIH, “The goal of MIRA is to increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding by providing investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. The program will also help distribute funding more widely among the nation's highly talented and promising investigators.”
She is ready to begin the research project and see where it takes her and her team.
“This is a situation where, with great power comes great responsibility,” Ford Versypt said. “Receiving this grant is amazing, but now there’s work to be done to make good on all the expectations and goals that have been set forth.”
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