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Dr. Michael M. Abecassis Transplant Innovation Endowment Grant

The Northwestern Medicine Transplant Advisory Council (NMTAC) is an inspired group of organ recipients, donors and their families that are united in a mission to support the future of organ transplantation at Northwestern Medicine while connecting and supporting the transplant community. In 2016, they joined the Comprehensive Transplant Center (CTC) on a journey to build a $10M endowment fund to support the center's ongoing research efforts, the endowment principle has now surpassed the goal of $10M. 

The endowment funds will be used to support ambitious, audacious and innovative research that is not typically funded by federal agencies and industry partners but will allow CTC scientists to explore the next generation of aspirational projects to ensure a sustainable legacy of the relentless pursuit of collaborative and innovative research that has become the hallmark of the CTC.

An advisory council reviews proposals using a five-point rating scale on scientific merit, innovation or risk, significance to transplant, likelihood of receiving future funding and the investigator.

Annual requests for proposals will be issued directly to our Stakeholders with applications due Feb 28. Award letters are sent on May 15 and project/funding start date is Sept. 1. For more information, please contact the TIE committee

 FY 2025 Awardees

  • Dr. Jesse Davidson IV, awarded $49,801 for "Tolerance Induction using Type I Dendritic Cells (DC1) as a Novel Adoptive Transfer Therapeutic Strategy in Organ Transplantation"
  • Dr. Dempsey Hughes, awarded $30,596 for "Utilizing metabolomic biomarkers plus elastography to establish a novel noninvasive method of detecting and staging metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) in liver transplant recipients"
  • Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo and Alan Soetikno, awarded $40,036 for "Enhancing Liver Transplant Outcome Research Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Data Extraction: Comparative Analysis, Trade-off Identification, and Large Language Model Performance Optimization"
  • Dr. Kristopher Glinton and Edward Thorp, awarded $40,000 for "Towards Promoting Allograft Tolerance through Type I Conventional DCs"
  • Dr. Bowen Wang, awarded $40,000 for "Ex Vivo NAD+-replenishing Nanotherapy to Improve Normothermic Preservation of Cardiac Allograft Survival and Post-transplant Survival: Proof-of-concept Study in a Murine Model"
  • Dr. Zubair Ilyas, awarded $40,000 for "HLA-DQ Immunogenicity – lessons learned from living-donor kidney transplant recipients with long-term allograft survival"
  • Dr. Hong Xu, awarded $47,487.69 for "Delayed Third-Party Bone Marrow Transplantation for the Induction of Transplant Tolerance: A Potential Solution for All"
  • Dr. Stephen Chiu, awarded $40,000 for "Single-cell RNAseq to determine relative contributions of donor and recipient peripheral blood mononuclear cells to remote organ injury after thoracic transplantation"
  • Dr. Matthew Harris, awarded $28,011 for "Portable Non-Invasive Liver Disease Assessment (NILDA) in Deceased Donor Liver Allografts with FibroScan"
  • Dr. Vinayak Rohan, awarded $10,000 for "Developing an Integrated Diabetes Kidney Transplant Program (INDI-KTP)

 FY 2024 Awardees

  • Eleonora Forte, PhD & Neil Kelleher, PhD: $47,500 for the project "Translational proteomics for the discovery of proteoforms biomarkers to assess kidney quality pre-implantation and recipient immune response post-implantation"
  • Daniel Batlle, MD & Zheng Jenny Zhang, MD, PhD: $47,500 for the project "Molecular signatures in delayed graft function post kidney transplantation - Role of Angiotens in converting enzyme 2"
  • Chitaru Kurihara, MD: $47,500 for the project "TNF-alpha released by recipient classical monocytes drives acute kidney injury following lung transplant"
  • Lorenzo Gallon, MD & Zheng Jenny Zhang, MD: $47,500 for the project "Targeting VEGF/VEGFRs to mitigate kidney transplant IRI"
  • Aleksandar Senev, MD, PhD: $47,500 for the project: "Investigating HLA-DQ immunogenicity: Site-directed mutagenesis of candidate amino acid targets"
  • Muthukumar Gunasekaran, PhD: $47,500 for the project "Neonatal Mesenchymal Stem cells for the Prevention of Transplant Rejection"
  • Adam Lin, MD, PhD: $47,500 for the project "Immune modulatory nanoparticles to treat toxicity of chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy"
  • Catherine Chapin, MD: $47,500 for the project "Determining the Association Between HLA Risk Alleles and T-cell Repertoires in Patients with Indeterminate Pediatric Acute Liver Failure"
  • Jes M Sanders, MD: $20,000 for the project "Augmentation of Intrahepatic Tregs in Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis-Related Cirrhosis"
  • Amishi Desai, DO: $11,000 for the project "Waitlist Automation with Integrative Technology Leveraging Informatics in Selection for Transplantation (WAITLIST)"
  • Dempsey L. Hughes, MD: $11,000 for the project "Redefining Initial Standard Cardiac STratification of Recipients of Abdominal Transplantation (RISC STRAT)"
  • Julie K Johnson, MSPH, PhD & Vinayak Rohan, MD: $11,000 for the project "Pain Relief Optimization Management Protocol for Kidney Transplant (PROMPT-KT)"

 FY 2023 Awardees

  • Evan Scott, PhD & Samuel Stupp, PhD: $65,094 for the project "Pre-Clinical, Scalable, and Targeted Immunotherapeutics for Ex VivoDelivery in Organ Transplantation"
  • Daniela Ladner, MD MPH: $50,000 for the project "Markers of Decompensation and Dealth-Proteomics in Liver Cirrhosis"
  • James Mathew, PhD: $50,000 for the project "Augmented Delivery of Regulatory T Cells for the Prevention of Transplant Rejection by Using Fucosylation"
  • Zach Dietch, MD: $50,000 for the project "Patient-reported outcomes in liver transplantation; an opportunity to reduce morbidity, improve quality of life and reduce resource utilization"
  • Xiaoying Liu, PhD: $50,000 for the project "The Unfolded Protein Response in Liver Transplant Recipients with Acute Rejection"
  • Luisa Iruela-Aripse, PhD: $50,000 for the project "A biomarker for endothelial health in transplantation"

 FY 2022 Awardees

  • Josh Levitsky, MD: $60,000 for his project “Erythropoietin Therapy to Induce Regulatory T cells in Liver Transplant Recipients”
  • Anat Tambur, PhD: $60,000 for her project "Understanding the immunogenicity of HLA-DQ antibodies in solid organ transplantation"
  • Zheng Jenny Zhang, MD: $58,606 for her project "Leveraging Nanocarrier Delivery Platforms for Tissue/Cell-Specific Targeting of Myd88 Pathways in Mitigating I/R Stress and MCMV Reactivation"
  • C. Shad Thaxton, MD, PhD: $54,479 for his project “Biomimetic HDL Nanoparticles as Therapy to Improve Regulatory T Cell Function in a Mouse Kidney Transplant Model”
  • Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD: $53,0000 for his project “Development of nanoparticles for specific depletion of HLA antibody producing plasma cells: A potential solution to allo-sensitization in transplantation” 
  • Neil Kelleher, PhD & Eleonora Forte, MD: $47,158 for their project "Molecular Characterization of the Antibody Response to SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 Transplant Recipients Compared to Non-Transplant Individuals"

 FY 2021 Awardees

  • Anat Tambur, PhD: $25,000 for her project "CRISPR/Cas9 edited, singly expressed, HLA class II cells for the study of HLA-DQ immunogenicity"
  • Evan Scott, PhD & Xiaomin Zhang: $44,050 for their project “Validation of a Cell-selective Nanodrug for Induction of Islet Transplantation Tolerance in the Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes”
  • Neil Kelleher, PhD: $46,354 for his project "Profiling of SARS-CoV-2-Specific Antibodies to Phenotype IgG Response in Transplant Patients by Top-Down Proteomics"
  • Richard Green, MD: $32,078 for his project “Developing an iPSC Biobank to Determine the Genetics and Lipid Metabolism of NASH Patients Requiring Liver Transplantation”
  • Xingqiang Lai, MD, PhD: $38,700 for his project “Impact of Clinical Relevant Immunosuppression on Immune Response to COVID-19 in Transplant Recipients”
  • Yuvaraj Sambandam, PhD: $44,659 for his project "Establishment of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)-Specific Cellular Immune Assays to Support Future NIH Grant Applications”

 FY 2020 Awardees

  • Daniel Borja-Cacho, MD: $50,000 for his project "Ex-vivo Normothermic Perfusion as a tool to improve the viability and function of marginal livers"
  • Dave Pinelli, MD: $15,000 for his project "Friend or Foe: In search of acceptable HLA mismatches in solid organ transplantation"
  • Jason Wertheim, MD: $28,500 for his project "Establishing an iPSC biobank from patients with liver disease"
  • Kyle Koss: $5,000 for his project "Promoting Nerve Repair in a Hind Limb Transplant Model using Glial-Seeded Self-Assembling Amphiphile Scaffolds"
  • Mary Hummel, MD: $21,500 for the project "Identification of receptors that mediate entry of human cytomegalovirus in hematopoietic progenitor cells"
  • Taylor Heald-Sargent: $12,000 for her project "Cellular site and burden of latent CMV in donor lungs"
  • Themistoklis Kourkoumpetis, MD: $8,000 for the project "The Association Between Liver and Mononuclear Cell Microbial Signatures and Acute Liver Transplant Rejection"

 FY 2019 Awardees

  • Andre Iovane, PhD: $8,225 for his project "Development of a new CRISPR-based ultra-sensitive method for CMV nucleic acids detection and quantitation"
  • Catherine Chapin, MD, MS: $10,000 for her project "Transcriptome analysis to identify key mediators of immune dysregulation in indeterminate pediatric acute liver failure"
  • Daniela Ladner, MD, MPH: $15,000 for her project "PIPELine (Personality Informed Prehabilitation in End-stage Liver disease)"
  • Robert Gerbasi, PhD: $17,000 for his project "A pilot study to delineate the proteoforms underpinning FSGS recurrence in patients after kidney allograft transplantation using next-generation precision proteomics"
  • Mahzad Akbarpour, DVM, PhD: $17,775 for the project "Inflammasome-dependent IL-1B production by donor NCM lead to the development of PGD following lung transplantation"
  • Michael Divito, PhD: $20,000 for his project "Optimization of Acellular Liver Scaffold System for iPSC Lipotoxicity Model"

 FY 2018 Awardees

  • Mary Rinella, MD: $10,000 for her project “Noninvasive Diagnosis of Disease Recurrence in Patients Transplanted for NASH Cirrhosis”
  • Katherine Hekman, MD, PhD : $9,950 for her project “Metabolic Reprogramming in Nephron Progenitor Cell Directed Differentiation”
  • Sarah Taylor, MD: $10,000 for her project “The Mechanistic Implications of a Limited Immunoglobulin Repertoire in Biliary Atresia”
  • Lisa Van Wagner, MD: $10,000 for her project “Change in Body Composition in Liver Transplant Recipients Over Time and Impact on Clinical Outcomes”

Pilot Fund

The CTC also funded pieces of the four proposals listed below. These projects began Dec. 1, 2016. The purpose in funding the pilot projects was threefold:

  1. to demonstrate to potential donors how the funds would be used and the process by which funds would be allocated;
  2. to demonstrate to faculty members that they could benefit from this process to encourage them to direct patients who are potential donors to the endowment campaign and
  3. to test the funding process

Those FY 2017 awardees were:

  • Javeed Ansari, MD: $10,000 for his project “Identification and Characterization of HLA-Specific B Cells in Transplant Recipients
  • Eleonora Forte, PhD: $4,000 for her project “Identification of host genes essential for Human Cytomegalovirus latency and reactivation by CRISPR-Cas9 Knockout Screening”
  • John Friedewald, MD: $1,000 for his project “Clinical and Genomic Predictors of Outcomes in Kidney Transplantation”
  • Silvia Minardi, PhD: $10,000 for her project “Synthosomes: Biomimetic Exosome-like Proteolipid Nanovesicles for Tolerance Delivery in an Islet Transplant Model”

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