U.S. Dept. of Defense awards Barry Univ. $2 million congressionally-directed grant
Apr 11, 2011
Miami Shores, Fla. – The United States Department of Defense has awarded Barry University a $2 million congressionally-directed grant. These funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will allow researchers to conduct studies that could lead to the reduction of bacteria in wound infections for soldiers in combat.
Included in the grant - the largest research grant the university has received - are funds to support a team of six researchers, 12 graduate and undergraduate students and more than $450,000 for laboratory equipment and supplies.
The two-year project will be guided by Dr. Gerhild Packert, associate dean and professor in Barry’s College of Health Sciences in conjunction with its School of Podiatric Medicine Dean, Dr. Jeffrey Jensen, and Dr. Evelio Velis, health services administration program director.
Barry’s Institute for Collaborative Sciences Research provides an opportunity for faculty and students from Barry’s College of Health Sciences and School of Podiatric Medicine to work together in advancing scientific studies such as this one. Findings could potentially result in the manufacturing of emergency medical equipment to treat soldiers hurt on the battle field. These results can also lead to further funding for clinical studies.
This is the second DARPA grant awarded to Barry University. Last year, Packert and Velis received $1.2 million to assist military and humanitarian needs by testing water quality for safe use during emergency conditions. The team is currently examining the reliability of water test kits in finding bacteria and parasites in fresh water.
Packert, a geneticist and expert in molecular techniques, will again be accompanied by Velis as well as Jensen, a surgeon and wound healing expert, who will assist in oversight of the project and supervise graduate students.
“Enabling nitric oxide to penetrate tissues and eradicate bacteria would certainly benefit soldiers in the field,” said Jensen, who has clinical experience with nitric oxide in healing chronic wounds. “But there is also a tremendous need for addressing bacterial infections in chronic wounds secondary to diabetes, venous insufficiency, and pressure areas in elderly patients.” “Nitric oxide could assist in the healing process by addressing bacterial burden in wounds without “drug resistance” so commonly seen with systemic antibiotics.”
Velis, a medical doctor with post graduate training in biostatistics and epidemiology, will be assisting in research design and statistical analysis as well as developing and implementing research methods workshops for students.
“The workshops will significantly increase students’ competencies in the area of clinical and epidemiological investigation,” Velis said.
This innovative research project titled, “identify parameters for the optimal delivery of pressurized nitric oxide to reduce bioburden in wound infections,” will specifically study how to deliver nitric oxide to deeper layers of skin in order to reduce the presence of pathogens. Researchers will examine how much pressure is safe to use by testing on human skin models in the laboratory.
“Dr. Packert, and her research team have been successful in their grant writing endeavors because they have built a track record with funders such as DARPA,” said College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Pegge Bell. “They submitted a proposal that clarified the contributions and capabilities of Barry’s research team, which made them trustworthy for current and future funding.”
Bell went on to explain that the demographics of Barry’s students mimic that of the army troops; both need to understand how to adhere to protocols for safety and efficacy, whether in the lab or in the field.
“The reason why we write these grants is to help students, especially undergrads, who rarely receive this kind of hands-on experience,” Packert said. “We want them to use modern equipment and be challenged; it is important for them to have these opportunities that will lead to successful careers or continued education.”
Dr. Christoph Hengartner, assistant professor of biology and microbiologist will participate in laboratory testing and teach summer workshops to six undergraduate and six graduate students from the College of Health Sciences and the School of Podiatric Medicine, respectively, on how to perform safe and effective research in the laboratory.
The grant will also allow for two adjunct faculty members to join the Barry team; one who is a an expert in therapeutic use of nitric oxide, Dr. Chris Miller, and the other is Dr. Kenneth Greenberg, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and an infectious disease specialist. Both professors will participate in design for their respective fields.