March and April 2021 proved to be very busy with the submission of several NIH supplements, each of them related to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. We highlight here four of these applications. If awarded, these studies/projects will be supplements to our Alliance CTR “parent grant” U54GM133807
- The first submission, titled “SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance across the Island of Puerto Rico”, submitted in response to NOT-GM-21-031, is a collaborative initiative between the Hispanic Alliance for Clinical and Translational Research (Alliance), the UPR-Rio Piedras, the Puerto Rico INBRE program, and the UPR-Rio Piedras campus, and Yale University. The primary aim of the proposal is to create a SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequencing surveillance for Puerto Rico. Dr. Riccardo Papa, Professor with the Biology Department at the UPR-Recinto de Rio Piedras and Director of the PR-INBRE Sequencing and Genotyping Facility will serve as the Program Leader with Dr. Jose Rodriguez Medina, Leader of the Technologies and Resources for Research Laboratories (TRRCL) will serve as Program Co-Leader and mentor to Dr. Papa. Other Program Co-Leaders, all faculty of the UPR system, are: Drs. Filipa Godoy, Carlos Sariol, Jose Rodriguez Orengo, and José Verle Rodríguez. Steven Van Belleghem of Yale University is a consultant to the study.
As the Contact Principal Investigator (PI) for the Alliance, Dr. Marcia Cruz is the PI for this supplement. Support for the editing and submission of this proposal was provided by the Alliance’s Professional Development Core (PDC) (Dr. Mary Helen Mays for grant editing support), the Pilot Project Program (PPP) (Ms. Antonia Ortiz for technical support) and the PR-INBRE (Ms. Evelyn Rivera, PR-INBRE Program Administrator for technical support).
- “Access to Associations Between Gut Microbiota and Alzheimer’s Disease in Puerto Ricans” was submitted by Drs. Vanessa Sepulveda (PI) and Filipa Godoy-Vitorina (Co-PI), was submitted in response to NOT-AG-20-034 (‘Notice of Special Interest: Alzheimer’s focused administrative supplements for NIH grants that are not focused on Alzheimer’s disease’. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an incurable although common type of neurodegenerative disease that results in dementia. In Puerto Rico, AD is identified as the second cause of death. Caribbean Hispanics, including Puerto Ricans living on the island have shown a more severe AD symptomatology and disease mortality than any other ethnic group, compared to Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. Evidence suggest that consuming a heatt0healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, chicken, nuts, and legumes may reduce dementia risk and that diet is the most important modulator of gut microbiota. The overall objective of this study is to elucidate the role of gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. This study is significant given the need for standardized protocols and pipelines for the discovery of novel research targets for early Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and interventions in high-risk populations. Support for the editing and submission of this proposal was provided by the Alliance’s Professional Development Core (PDC) (Dr. Mary Helen Mays for grant editing support) and the Pilot Project Program (PPP) (Ms. Antonia Ortiz for technical support).
- Mary Helen Mays, Leader for the Biomedical Informatics, Informatics, and Cyberinfrastructure Enhancement Core (BiBEC) is a Co-Investigator in collaboration with Drs. Griffin Weber, Paul Availlach, Tianxi Cai, Suzanne Churchill, Shyam Visweswaran (faculty in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School) and Shawn Murphy (Director of Research Computing and Informatics at Partners Healthcare, Associate Director for the Laboratory of Computer Science at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Submitted in response to OTA-21-015B, Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection Initiative: SARS-CoV02 Recovery Cohorts. Titled “OTA-21 015B: EHR and RWD Approaches to PASC by the Consortium for Clinical Characterization of COVID-19 by EHR (4CE)”, this program focuses on three cohorts: 1) advanced post-doctoral/junior faculty who will participate in immersion experiences in applications of artificial intelligence (AI) for electronic health record data mining; undergraduate students majoring in computational fields (math, biomedical informatics, bioinformatics, statistics) who aspire to graduate education (PhD, MD, MD/PhD) in informatics for human health who will participate in an Undergraduate Summer Institute in Biomedical Informatics, and 3) provide Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure (HPREP) high school enrichment to a new area of focus of computational ‘dry’ research using patient data. This later aspect of the program will engage students who are underrepresented in STEM fields at the high school level, providing them with previously unimagined pathway for those who love to code, work with numbers, solve analytic problems.
- The Alliance also collaborated in the submission of a proposal for the Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection (PASC) Initiative and Investigator Consortium. This application, titled ‘Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-COV-2 Studies Among Underserved and Rural populations’ was an effort of the IDeA CTR-Network of Clinical Investigators. The group proposed a longitudinal observational study of acute and chronic COVID-19 patients from CTR sites across the U.S. and Puerto Rico as part of the Clinical Recovery Cohort in PASC individuals. This proposal, prepared in response to OTA 21-015B, seeks to better understand the long-term sequelae of COVID-19 disease. This involves understanding of the recovery process and the epidemiology (including incidence/prevalence) and natural history (including duration) of PASC. Studies conducted will characterize: the clinical spectrum of recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection, including the subset of patients who have symptoms of disease beyond the standard course; the individual, clinical, and contextual factors that contribute to the duration, types of symptoms, and severity of disease; phenotypes of patients who have prolonged symptoms or other sequelae; the impact of treatments for acute COVID-19 or for postacute symptoms on the duration and severity of symptoms; and factors that impact the outcomes in patients infected by SARS-CoV-2. Alliance investigators participating in this application were Drs. Carlos Luciano, PI for the Alliance; Mary Helen Mays, Lead for BiBEC, and Valerie Wojna, Pilot Projects Program (PPP).