Core Interest Groups (CIGs) were developed to promote collaborative, trans-disciplinary research. The CIG concept accommodates the goal of disease agnostic research, as it allows for the spontaneous formation of new research enterprises. Investigators from all partnering institutions are encouraged to join a CIG. Approved by the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), CIGs must meet stringent criteria: they must house senior as well as junior members; they must have a track record of external funding; and they must work in areas of interest that span CIGs, disciplines, or institutions. Once approved, CIGs may use CICATS resources and pilot new resources within CICATS that may be disseminated across CICATS. CIGs build on areas where the University has a strong research presence and capacity for collaborative research development, and also areas with great promise for innovative, new translational research, extending current projects, and expertise. The formation of CIGs allows researchers, practitioners, state agencies, community groups, and service organizations to work collaboratively within CICATS to advance science and practice around particular health or methodological areas. A listing of current CIGs can be found below and demonstrates the breadth of involvement and encouragement taking place in CICATS.
The Aging Research CIG is under the joint leadership of Drs. George Kuchel and Richard Fortinsky. The goal of this CIG is to preserve and improve health, function, and independence in older adults through translational approaches which span the bench, the bedside, and the community, while also addressing the intersection of family and formal care systems. Ongoing and planned research efforts involve multidisciplinary studies designed to address topics in four major functional domains: 1) Mental and Behavioral Health, 2) Mobility, Frailty, and Sarcopenia, 3) Voiding and Incontinence; and 4) Inflammation and Immune Factors.
The Biomedical Engineering CIG is under the direction of Drs. Cato Laurencin and Syam Nukavarapu. The goal of this CIG is to apply engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology in order to enhance diagnostic and therapeutic healthcare. Importantly, the work of the Biomedical Engineering CIG seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine by combining the design, advanced fabrication, and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to advance health care treatment.
Cancer Control and Prevention
The Cancer Control and Prevention CIG is under the direction of Dr. Cheryl Oncken. The leadership team also includes Drs. Deborah Cornman, Meg Gerrard, Jayesh Kamath, and Alicia Dugan. The focus of this CIG is on research designed to reduce cancer risk, incidence, and death as well as research to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors. Specifically, proposed research areas of interest are cancer prevention [with a focus on treatment of alcohol and tobacco use disorders and healthy behavior adoption-exercise and yoga, prevention screening including colonoscopy] and survivorship (e.g., in the workplace, delivery of care, cormorbidities). This CIG is composed of a transdisciplinary team with members from UConn Health’s Department of Medicine, Psychiatry, Oral Health, and Immunology, respectively; as well as with members from regional hospitals and from community-based organizations. Integration of innovative and cross-cutting thematic areas such as genomics, epidemiology, decision-making, and translation to clinical practice and to the community is key to this CIG. This CIG’s mission is to expand research between UConn Health, regional hospitals, and community organizations. The mission is consistent with that of CICATS to expand transdisciplinary and translational research at UConn Health and with partnering institutions and to assist in the education and professional development of junior researchers.
Child Mental Health
The Child Mental Health (CMH) CIG is under the direction of Dr. Damion Grasso. The leadership team also includes Drs. Daniel F. Connor, Julian D. Ford, Rocio Chang, Margaret J. Briggs-Gowan and Carolyn Greene. The CMH CIG aims to help prevent children and adolescents from developing costly and chronic high-risk behavioral and emotional problems. The CMH CIG’s core goals are: 1) To conduct T2 studies that develop, implement, and evaluate effective interventions for children and adolescents with or at risk for, serious behavioral and emotional problems; 2) To conduct T3 dissemination science studies that translate evidence-based interventions into practical community-based programs and policy; and 3) To address health disparities for underserved children, families, and communities that face severe adversities and associated problems in behavioral and emotional health, physical health, and safety, and insufficient access to resources and opportunities. The group is a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional consortium of clinicians, clinician-scientists and educators in the fields of child/adolescent psychiatry, pediatrics, developmental and clinical psychology, social work, nursing, child welfare, correctional healthcare, and juvenile justice.
Clinical and Translational Research in Cardiovascular Diseases
The Clinical and Translational Research in Cardiovascular Diseases CIG is under the direction of Drs. Bruce T. Liang and Kimberly Dodge-Kafka. This CIG aims to determine the molecular mechanism of cardiac disease with the aim of developing novel therapeutics to prevent the induction and progression of the disease. Multiple manuscripts have been published with input from members of this CIG.
Novel protective role of endogenous cardiac myocyte P2X4 receptors in heart failure. Yang, Tiehong; Shen, Jian-bing; Yang, Ronghua; Redden, John; Dodge-Kafka, Kimberly; Grady, James; Jacobson, Kenneth A.; Liang, Bruce T. Circulation. Heart failure 2014 Mar;7(3):510-8
TRPM7-mediated Ca2+ signals confer fibrogenesis in human atrial fibrillation. Du, Jianyang; Xie, Jia; Zhang, Zheng; Tsujikawa, Hiroto; Fusco, Daniel; Silverman, David; Liang, Bruce; Yue, Lixia Circulation research 2010 Mar;106(5):992-1003
Correctional Health Research
The Correctional Health Research CIG team is under the direction of Dr. Deborah Shelton. The main thrust of the research has focused on the creation of or adaptation of interventions for incarcerated and reentry populations in response to clinical need. The goal is to improve the health care and service delivery across the 17 facilities and 34 halfway houses throughout Connecticut which hold over 19,000 offenders. The work of the CIG includes, but is not limited to the following areas: 1) Treatment for offenders with behavior problems; 2) Global assessment of functioning instrument for the prison environment (the Corrections Modified-GAF) for safety and security of staff and inmate patients; and 3) Medication algorithms to examine impact upon symptom management for persons with mental disorders.
The eHealth/mHealth CIG is under the joint leadership of Drs. Linda K. Barry and Deborah Cornman. It is comprised of researchers at UConn and other institutions who are interested in electronic health/mobile health research and the use of mobile technologies, social media, web-based interventions, sensors, and other new technologies to assess and improve health and health behavior. The goals of the eHealth/mHealth CIG are to identify relevant funding opportunities, develop multidisciplinary collaborations in digital health, and inform members of developments in this rapidly changing field.
The Health Disparities CIG is under the direction of Dr. Linda K. Barry. This CIG focuses on addressing and eliminating health disparities in all aspects of the healthcare system, from research in the laboratory to health outcomes in the community.
The Injury Prevention CIG team is under the direction of Dr. Brendan Campbell, Mr. Garry Lapidus and Attorney Kevin Borrup. This CIG is a group of senior and junior investigators with translational projects in all stages of development. The purpose of the group is to prevent and reduce unintentional injury and violence, the leading cause of death for Americans age 1 – 44 years old. For people older than 44 years, injury is a significant cause of morbidity. We currently conduct injury prevention research across the entire age spectrum, from newborns to seniors. Our proposed IP CIG will continue this effort. The major causes of unintentional injury include motor vehicle crashes (occupant, pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist), falls, burns, poisoning, and drowning. Major causes of violence include assault, homicide, self-inflicted injury, suicide, child/elder abuse and neglect, and intimate partner violence.
Multidisciplinary Obesity Research
The Multidisciplinary Obesity Research CIG is under the direction of Dr. Amy Gorin. The leadership team also includes Drs. Michelle Cloutier, Alicia Dugan, Amy Mobley, Linda Pescatello and Helen Swede. The goal of the Multidisciplinary Obesity Research CIG is to bring together researchers throughout Connecticut who have expertise in obesity, nutrition, and physical activity. Furthermore, this CIG aims to identify opportunities for collaboration while seeking funding to promote obesity research that translates effective behavior change programs to at-risk individuals.
The Musculoskeletal Research CIG is under the direction of Drs. Liisa T. Kuhn, Marja M. Hurley, Jennifer Wolf, and Syam P. Nukavarapu. The Musculoskeletal Research CIG aims at building collaborations between the musculoskeletal and bioengineering research groups to promote interdisciplinary research, research translation, and research training. The musculoskeletal research group at UConn Health is one of the strongest and is nationally recognized. The bioengineering group consists of a large pool of faculty members with a wide range of research interests across the university. There is a critical need for the musculoskeletal and bioengineering groups to come together and collaborate to develop next generation strategies to 1) Treat various musculoskeletal disorders, diseases and defects; and 2) Train the future workforce in the musculoskeletal-bioengineering research area.
New Pathways to Drug Discovery (NPDD)
The New Pathways to Drug Discovery (NPDD) CIG is under the direction of Drs. Sandra K. Weller and Dennis Wright. The NPDD CIG represents a multidisciplinary collaboration across UConn Health, UConn Storrs, and The Jackson Laboratory. It capitalizes on existing inter-campus strengths in clinical medicine, drug discovery and development, genomics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology and related basis science disciplines. The primary mission of the NPDD group is one of the most challenging aspects of translational research: to enable new discoveries in the clinical and basic sciences through the development of therapeutic or diagnostic agents needed to probe, validate, and exploit pathways for the treatment of human diseases.
Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) CIG is under the direction of Drs. Martin Cherniak and Jennifer M. Cavallari. The goal of the OSH CIG is to develop and facilitate a productive, integrated community of stakeholders committed to improving occupational health and safety for Connecticut workers through innovative, translational work. It was built upon the Center for Promoting Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW), one of four national Total Worker Health centers of excellence, funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness, and economic benefits of integrating occupational health and safety with health promotion interventions to improve health in the working population.
The Personalized Immunotherapy CIG, under the direction of Dr. Pramod Srivastava, was established in 2009. The Personalized Immunotherapy CIG has strong leadership from Angela Kueck, M.D., a medical oncologist at UConn Health and Ion Mandiou, Ph.D., an associate professor of computer science from the UConn School of Engineering. With a goal to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of immune responses against cancerous cells, the Personalized Immunotherapy CIG is at the forefront of developing novel cancer immunotherapy. Drs. Srivastava and Madiou have led the team using high throughput sequencing and bioinformatics tools to identify mutations in pre-clinical models (published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine 2014). This new therapy has recently been approved by the FDA as a Phase 1 trial for ovarian cancer.
Sickle Cell Disease
The Sickle Cell Disease CIG team is under the direction of William T. Zempsky, M.D. and Biree Andemariam, M.D. Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic disorder predominately of those of African descent. Patients with this disorder experience a wide range of medical manifestations including severe pain, stroke, and pulmonary hypertension. Due to disparities in clinical care and research funding, the advancement of knowledge and treatment paradigms in this disorder have lagged behind other chronic diseases. The multi-system nature of this chronic disease requires collaboration of persons from a range of specialties and backgrounds to promote advancement of a research agenda in sickle cell disease.
Spirituality and Health
The Spirituality and Health CIG is under the leadership of Dr. David C. Steffens and co-leader Dr. Jayesh Kamath, along with Dr. Katy Wilcox and Dr. Mary Guerrera. The mission of the Spirituality and Health CIG is to foster research that focuses on the integration of spirituality in health care. Specifically, this CIG will seek to 1) promote measure development; 2) advance knowledge of the efficacy and effectiveness of spiritual interventions in the context of health care; and 3) foster research career development of trainees, staff and faculty interested in spirituality and health.
Stroke and Neurological Disorders
The Stroke and Neurological Disorders CIG is under the direction of Drs. Sanjay Mittal and Marie Eugene. The focus of this CIG is to study the differences in stroke and neuronal cell death and novel biomarkers in patients with intracerebral hemorrhage, and to develop aging and animal models of cerebrovascular disease and to identify novel therapeutic targets for ischemic stroke.
The Structural Biology CIG is led by Dr. Jeff Hoch, Dr. Irina Bezsonova, Dr. Olga Vinogradova, and Dr. Adam Schuyler. The goals of the Structural Biology CIG are (1) to foster the fruitful exchange of ideas among the structural biology community from the Farmington and Storrs campuses, and (2) to promote interaction among structural biologists and clinicians and investigators in other CIGs to identify new opportunities for collaboration to advance translational science. The charter membership of the Structural Biology CIG includes investigators engaged in all these activities, as well as molecular biologists and medicinal chemists who regularly make use of insights available from structural biology.
Substance Misuse in Workers
The Substance Misuse in Workers CIG is under the direction of Drs. Jennifer Cavallari and Carla Rash. This CIG includes professionals from the fields of medicine, counseling, substance abuse intervention, occupational health psychology, occupational epidemiology, occupational health and safety, advocacy, and program evaluation who are committed to using a research to practice approach to implement solutions to substance misuse, addiction, and recovery through workplace solutions.
Women’s Cancer Consortium
The Women’s Cancer Consortium CIG team is under the direction of Kevin Claffey, Ph.D.; Pramod Srivastiva, Ph.D., M.D.; Susan Tannenbaum, M.D.; Molly A. Brewer, D.V.M., M.D., M.S.; and Aleksey Merkulov, M.D., UConn Health. The Women’s Cancer Consortium is an established group of investigators with translational projects in all stages of development. The overarching purpose of the group is to improve the lives of patients with women’s cancers. This CIG has three broad goals: 1) To advance the best care treatment for women with cancer and cancer survivors; 2) To develop novel diagnostics and therapeutics that will reduce cancer mortality; and 3) To reduce the stress and psychological burden of cancer and cancer treatments. The group is a multi-disciplinary and multi-campus consortium of clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic research scientists in the fields of cancer biology, endocrinology, genetics and genomics, biomedical engineering and the social sciences.