Multidisciplinary Value Program Teams

Multidisciplinary Value Program (MVP) Teams

The College of Medicine with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and in collaboration with the Center for Clinical and Translational Science has launched a Multidisciplinary Value Program (MVP) initiative. The purpose of this funding mechanism is to provide a new opportunity and resources to support innovative, collaborative research projects with investigator initiated clinical studies that are developed by multi-disciplinary teams, inclusive of colleges and centers across UK. This initiative creates multiple teams bringing new discoveries to clinical care, creating a research, as well as an educational opportunity, for all learners to see first-hand how rapid approaches bring discovery and technology to patients.

The following descriptions highlight our first six teams including the title of the clinical trial, team members, and a description of the research that is being brought to patients

Future progress updates will be forthcoming

Susan Smyth, MD, PhD

Professor and Chief, Department of Internal Medicine – Cardiology
Medical Director, Gill Heart Institute
Director, MD/PhD Program
College of Medicine

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Zhenyu Li, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine – Cardiology
College of Medicine

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Sidney Whiteheart, MD, PhD

Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

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Peter Morris, MD

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Xiang-An Li, PhD

Assistant Professor

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Hiroshi Saito, PhD

Associate Professor, Surgery

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Richard Charnigo, PhD

Professor, Biostatistics and Statistics

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Binggang Xiang

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Travis Sexton, PhD

Scientist II / Study Coordinator

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Sepsis is a complex syndrome of dysregulated host responses to infection that results in end organ damage and carries substantial mortality, in part because current therapies either address symptoms or are directed at aggressively treating the underlying infection. Growing evidence indicates that platelets are key effectors in many inflammatory conditions, serve as a link between inflammatory responses and thrombosis, and regulate the health of the vascular endothelium. In sepsis, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) is a frequent complication and closely associates with increased mortality. Whether thrombocytopenia is a marker for more disseminated disease or a contributor to poor outcomes is not known. In an animal model of LPS-induced endotoxemia and in a bacterial infusion sepsis model, we reported that depletion of platelets worsened organ injury during septic shock, whereas transfusion of platelets significantly reduced mortality. These findings imply that platelets play a beneficial role in sepsis and protect against septic shock. In the current INFUSE trial, we will test the hypothesis that platelet transfusion will interrupt platelet reprogramming to improve biomarkers of inflammation, endothelial integrity, and platelet function in adult patients with sepsis and thrombocytopenia. We will also develop an institutional biobank from patients with sepsis that will support future discovery research. Completion of the aims will generate preliminary data in support of a role for platelets as mediators of adverse outcomes in sepsis and position our team to be competitive for collaborative, programmatic funding in the fields of thrombosis and sepsis.

This project is the natural extension and translation of basic science work conducted by a group of UK investigators who are experts in thrombosis, vascular biology, critical care medicine, and sepsis. Through the MVP program, ongoing collaborations between the investigators will be strengthened and new collaborations initiated to support applications for future extramural grant support to define the role of platelets and novel inflammatory pathways in sepsis.


Mark Evers, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Surgery
Director, Markey Cancer Center
College of Medicine

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Tianyan Gao, PhD

Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry
College of Medicine

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Gaurev Goel, MD

Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

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Heidi Weiss, PhD

Associate Director, Shared Resources
Director, Biostatistics Shared Resource Facility
Professor Department of Surgery, College of Medicine

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Yekaterina Zaytseva, PhD

Assistant Professor, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

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Chi Wang, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Biostatistics, College of Public Health

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Eun Young Lee, MD

Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

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Richard Higashi

Professor, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

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Altered cellular metabolism has been widely recognized as an emerging hallmark of cancer. Studies from our laboratory have demonstrated that fatty acid synthase (FASN), a key enzyme of de novo lipid biosynthesis, is significantly unregulated in colorectal cancer (CRC). The translational goal of our project is to define the metabolic adaptations that occur in colon cancer and to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate the effect of a novel FASN inhibitor, TVB-2640, on modulating cellular metabolism and proliferation in colon cancer patients. The general hypothesis of our study is that up regulation of FASN expression and activity occurs in patients with more aggressive colon cancers; therefore, these individuals would benefit from a therapeutic approach that includes targeted inhibition of de novo lipogenesis. To address this hypothesis, we have designed a pilot clinical trial to assess pharmacodynamic effects on metabolic endpoints following short-term treatment with TVB-2640 prior to colon resection with the following Specific Aims: 1) to perform a prospective pharmacodynamics trial of TVB-2640 in colon cancer patients, 2) to assess the metabolic effects of FASN inhibition on resected colon cancers, and 3) to measure polar and lipid metabolites in post-treatment tissue specimens and to assess potential driver mutations in tumor specimens.


Christian Lattermann, MD

Professor and Vice Chair of Clinical Research
Department of Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine
College of Medicine

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John Abt, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences
Director of Sports Medicine Research Institute
College of Health Sciences

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Cale Jacobs, PhD

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Peter Hardy, PhD

Assistant Professor, Radiology

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Heather Bush, PhD

Kate Spade & Company Endowed Professor
Associate Professor, Biostatistics
College of Public Health

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Knee injuries involving the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) are common injuries, particularly in teenagers. While surgical options are successful at restoring the stability of the knee joint, unfortunately the damage suffered during the injury extends beyond the ligament and predisposes the majority of patients with an ACL tear to early wear of the articular cartilage. Within a decade, 50% of these patients present with knee pain when walking, thus displaying the onset of symptomatic wear and tear or “posttraumatic” Osteoartritis (PTOA). While the full picture of PTOA does not surface for a decade after injury, recent studies have shown that the damage to the cartilage at the time of injury results in gradual inflammation and cartilage breakdown as early as 2-4 weeks after injury.

In the HEALR clinical trial (Hyaluronan administered Early after Anterior cruciate Ligament Reconstruction) we seek to investigate the extent of these changes immediately after ACL surgery and aim to protect this early onset of cartilage breakdown. We will use a drug (Hyaluronic acid) that is commonly prescribed to patients with established and end stage OA but has not been used early after surgery. We plan to offer this trial patients with acute ACL tears and follow these patients for one year after surgery using state of the art imaging (MRI), functional testing protocols, and patient reported outcomes to assess if the early use of Hyaluronic acid after surgery can potentially reduce or eliminate the progressive cartilage breakdown seen in young patients with ACL injuries. The potential benefit of such a treatment strategy is very high as it might be able to delay or eliminate stifling knee pain and stiffness in young athletes when they reach the most productive years of their lives.


Laura Fanucchi, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine
College of Medicine

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Sharon Walsh, PhD

Professor, Department of Behavioral Science
College of Medicine

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Michelle Lofwall, MD

Associate Professor, Behavioral Science and Psychiatry
Faculty, Center on Drug and Alcohol Research

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Jason Joy, L.M.F.T

Substance Abuse Counselor/Prevention Specialist
Polk Dalton OB Clinic

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Terri Powell, L.C.S.W., C.D.A.C.

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Diana Norkus

Research Assistant

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Paul Nuzzo, M.S.

Research Program Coordinator/Statistician

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Kristina Tucker

Research Coordinator

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Dan Cleland, M.S.

Information Technology Manager

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Barbara Davis

Health Educator

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Hospitalizations for severe infections associated with opioid use disorder (OUD), such as infective endocarditis (IE), have doubled in the US over the past decade and are frequently prolonged and resource-intensive. Once medically stabilized, persons with IE but without drug use typically enroll in outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy (OPAT), while persons with IE and OUD are kept in the hospital for the duration of therapy (often 6 weeks or more) largely due to concerns of ongoing drug use. Unfortunately, hospitalization for IE with OUD infrequently includes evidence-based medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine or methadone to address the OUD, despite the strong evidence that MAT decreases illicit drug use and mortality. Enrolling hospitalized persons with IE due to OUD into comprehensive MAT (i.e., buprenorphine + counseling) while inpatient, and providing an intensive transitional outpatient care program supporting MAT, may support provision of outpatient IV antibiotic therapy and be cost effective. The primary aim of this pilot randomized clinical trial is to evaluate the equivalence of current practice plus buprenorphine (keeping patients with IE due to opioid use disorder in the hospital for the full duration of antibiotic treatment) compared to OPAT plus buprenorphine (discharge with outpatient treatment once medically stable). Key outcomes include number of days of illicit drug use and three-month readmission rates for infection or treatment-related complications. This study will provide requisite preliminary data for submission of an NIH grant proposal to conduct a larger clinical randomized trial to assess an optimized transition care plan for these complex patients.


Edward Kasarskis, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Neurology
Chief, VA Neurology Service
College of Medicine

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Daret St. Clair, PhD

Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
Vice Chair for Research, Associate Director for Basic Science, Markey Cancer Center
College of Medicine

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Luksana Chaiswing, PhD

Assistant Professor, Toxicology and Cancer Biology

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Haining Zhu, PhD

Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

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Robert English, P.T, PhD

Division of Physical Therapy, Program Director

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Melody Ryan PharmD., M.P.H., B.C.P.S, C.G.P.

Professor and Vice-chair
Department of Pharmacy Practice & Science
Director, International Professional Student Education

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Markos Leggas, PhD

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Meghann Bruno, RN

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Meha Joshi, B.S.

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Our research program deals with specific type of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, "Lou Gehrig's Disease"). In general, ALS is disorder characterized by progressive weakness of muscle with death of the patient caused by difficulty breathing because of muscle weakness. Although most ALS patients lack a family history and are termed "sporadic", about 10% are familial (fALS). About 25 different genes have been implicated in various families with fALS. We study a large family from our region with a mutation in the Fused in Sarcoma (FUS) gene. Our research group at the University of Kentucky demonstrated that the mutant FUS protein functions abnormally, in a very critical way by turning on the gene for Manganese Superoxide Dismutase (MnSOD) which is the major antioxidant enzyme for our bodies. The end result is that the ALS patients with the FUS mutation cannot fully defend themselves against so-called oxidative stress which damages cells and especially nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Recently, our group screened 786 FDA-approved drugs and showed that betamethasone increases MnSOD activity in cells. The enzyme MnSOD is exactly what is deficient in our patients. So, our research study will test if treatment with betamethasone can restore redox status and ultimately prevent the development of ALS and/or stabilize the progressive course of ALS in these familial ALS patients. This is an example of “personalized translational medicine” that grew out of close collaboration between clinicians and basic scientists at the University of Kentucky.


Mehdi Khosravi, MD

Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine – Pulmonary
College of Medicine

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Lu Yuan Lee, PhD

Professor, Department of Physiology
College of Medicine

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Paul Bryan Collins, S.S., R.R.T.

Professor of Statistics and Biostatistics
Director. Biostatistics and Research Design key function, UK CCTS

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Richard Kryscio, PhD

Robert Strauss Professor of Behavioral Science

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Thomas Kelley, PhD

Robert Strauss Professor of Behavioral Science

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Kristin Ashford, PhD

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The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cig) has risen significantly over the past decade, and is promoted as a safer alternative to cigarettes. However, the safety of e-cig in asthmatic patients has not been investigated. Our working hypothesis is that smoking e-cig vapor in smokers with mild allergic asthma will trigger acute bronchoconstriction by activation of the airway sensory nerves and cholinergic reflex pathway. This translational proposal is designed to test this hypothesis and acquire the preliminary data for developing a NIH application that will further investigate the mechanisms involved in the bronchoconstriction induced by e-cig vaping in asthmatics and its potential deleterious long term effects on airway functions of these patients.

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