Feinstein researchers nab major NIH awards

MIRA, MIRA, on the ball: Feinstein Institute head Kevin Tracey is one of two Feinstein researchers receiving major NIH awards this week.

Two cutting-edge Feinstein Institute for Medical Research projects have been selected for an elite National Institutes of Health funding program.

Kevin Tracey, the institute’s president and CEO, and Ping Wang, Feinstein’s chief scientific officer, will continue their groundbreaking research into bioelectronic medicine and sepsis, respectively, with help from the NIH’s Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards program.

Ping Wang: Step by sepsis.

Ping Wang: Step by sepsis.

Through the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences – which supports “basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention,” according to its website – the research awards program is designed to give established scientists “the ability to change course in their investigations as their research progresses,” according to a statement from the Manhasset-based Feinstein Institute, R&D arm of the Northwell Health system.

Tracey and Wang have both been tabbed for five-year grants, with Tracey set to receive $3 million and Wang $2 million.

The Feinstein Institute president’s “Molecular Basis of Bioelectric Medicine” study aims to answer questions about the molecular mechanisms controlling inflammation.

Through three separate research projects already funded by the NIH, Tracey has determined that inflammation can be controlled by targeting specific cytokines – tiny cell-signaling proteins – and mapping specific neural circuits.

Now, the researcher is attempting to understand the mechanisms of the neural circuits controlling immune responses and the role of cytokine inflammation-mediators in disease progression.

“These NIH awards to the Feinstein Institute reflect the outstanding research environment, and the shared commitment to creating knowledge to cure disease,” Tracey said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this basic research move into clinical benefit for future patients.”

Wang’s study, “Novel Approaches to Maintaining Organ Function in Sepsis,” seeks to decipher the mechanisms responsible for the regulation of white blood cell trafficking and vascular endothelial cell activation – two factors causing inflammation during sepsis.

Specifically, Wang is evaluating the efficacy of certain peptides as sepsis treatments, with the lofty goal of developing new anti-sepsis pharmaceuticals.

Noting the Feinstein Institute has been “a major advocate of sepsis study and awareness,” Wang expressed enthusiasm about the promise the $2 million MIRA grant holds for his research.

“It is an honor to be identified as one of the select investigators to be a recipient of a MIRA award,” the chief science officer said. “With this new grant, we will be able to continue to explore new avenues of treatment and understanding of the condition.”