Media Contacts

Stacy W. Kish

Science Communications, University of Utah Health
Phone: 801-587-2596

Jan 19, 2018 11:10 AM

The Immunology, Inflammation and Infectious Disease (III) Initiative at the University of Utah has awarded seed grants to eight projects that support the initiative’s aim of exploring the fundamental function of the immune system as it relates to infectious and autoimmune diseases, like diabetes and heart disease.

“The immune system is involved in just about every human disease,” says Ryan O’Connell, director of the III initiative and an associate professor in pathology at U of U Health. “We believe that these seed grants will provide the initial support needed for our research teams to compete successfully for future funding. Ultimately, this work will improve our understanding of how the immune system impacts a number of devastating human disorders, and should be the foundation for developing novel therapies to be used in the clinic.”

The projects span an array of topics, from obesity-related inflammation and insulin resistance to the association between colorectal cancer and the gut microbiome. Each grant was awarded $50,000 for one year. The 2018 awardees are:

  • The Role of Stra6L In Obesity Related Inflammation and Insulin Resistance*

Sihem Boudina, PhD., Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology

Robert Fujinami, PhD., Department of Pathology 

  • The Identification of Biomarkers for Psoriatic Arthritis Early Diagnosis*

Bingjian Feng, PhD., Department of Dermatology

Jessica Walsh, MD., Department of Internal Medicine

  • Epigenetic Regulation of Innate Lymphocyte Suppression in Human and Experimental Sepsis*

Daniel Leung, MD, MSC, Department of Internal Medicine

Scott Hale, PhD., Department of Pathology

Matt Rondina, MD, MS, Department of Internal Medicine

  • Molecular and Functional Role of Neutrophils in Squamous Cell Lung Cancer*

Trudy Oliver, PhD., Department of Oncological Sciences

Tom Lane, PhD., Department of Pathology 

  • The Immunometagenomic Landscape of Colorectal Cancer: Associations Between Immune-Cell Infiltrate in Colorectal Carcinoma and The Gut Microbiome*

Cornelia Ulrich, MS, PhD., Department of Population Health Sciences

Eric Swanson, MD, Department of Pathology 

Zac Stephens, PhD., Department of Pathology

  • Image-Guided Delivery of T Cell Receptor (TCR)-Transgenic T Cells Targeting Hepatocellular Carcinoma*

Gabriel Fine, MD, Department of Radiology

Djordje Atanackovic, MD, Department of Internal Medicine

Kimberly Evanson MD, PhD, Department of Pathology 

  • Role of Ceramide Accumulation in Effector T and Treg Cells in Development of Insulin Resistance**

Bhagirath Chaurasia, PhD, Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology

Scott Hale, PhD, Department of Pathology

  • Turning T Follicular Helper Cells "On" to Enhance Anti-Malarial Humoral Immunity***

Tracey Lamb, PhD, Department of Pathology

Scott Hale, PhD, Department of Pathology


*Funded by the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and the Vice President for Research

**Funded by the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center

***Funded by the Department of Pathology


The III seed grants fund pilot projects that promote collaborations among at least two independent investigators or research groups at U of U Health. Seed grants provide initial support to develop preliminary data that will allow competitive applications for funding by the NIH or other agencies and foundations.

III was created to improve diagnosis and treatment for this diverse array of disorders. It is built on a strong foundation of more than 100 faculty who conduct research in related fields at 4 colleges or schools and 20 departments across campus. A major goal of this initiative is to integrate basic, translational and clinical research in these areas by strengthening the III community and fostering collaborations.

seed grant immunology inflammation infection