Dr. Eric Lagasse Receives 2009 NIH Director's Transformative R01 Award

Through his efforts and this project, Dr. Lagasse thinks he's found a way to get the body to grow replacement tissue for failing organs.

The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine congratulates faculty member Eric Lagasse, PharmD, PhD (pictured), associate professor in the Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, and the Director of the Cancer Stem Cell Center, on his receipt of a 2009 NIH Director's Transformative R01 Award, 1 of 42 inaugural awards granted. Dr. Lagasse’s project, “Organogenesis of Ectopic Tissue in Lymph Node,” proposes to address some of the solutions to the development of complex 3-dimensional tissue models and a new paradigm by using lymph nodes as in vivo bioreactors to grow tissue or organ substitute. His initial study and proof of concept will be centered around the generation of ectopic liver in lymph nodes for patients suffering end-stage liver diseases.

Today, a life-saving organ transplant is many patients only option when disease strikes. However, organs available for transplant cannot meet the current demand. Through his efforts and this project, Dr. Lagasse thinks he's found a way to get the body to grow replacement tissue for failing organs.

"There are patients out there dying because there is no solution to their problem," said Dr. Lagasse. "I'm really pushing toward eventually doing this in a patient, and I'm going to try to get there in 5 years. Every time I talk to a surgeon about this, they get very excited."

Accelerating the current pace of discovery through the support of highly innovative research is an ongoing effort at the NIH, but the NIH Director's T-R01 Program is new this year. Named for the standard investigator-initiated research project that the NIH supports, the R01, the T-R01s provide a new opportunity for scientists that is unmatched by any other NIH program. Since no budget cap is imposed and preliminary results are not required, scientists are free to propose new, bold ideas that may require significant resources to pursue. They are also given the flexibility to work in large, complex teams if the complexity of the research problem demands it.

In 2009, the NIH is awarding $348 million to encourage investigators to explore bold ideas that have the potential to catapult fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health. The full complement of awards is granted under three innovative research programs supported by the NIH Common Fund’s Roadmap for Medical Research: the NIH Director’s Transformative R01 (T-R01) Awards, Pioneer Awards, and New Innovator Awards. The Common Fund, enacted into law by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act, supports cross-cutting, trans-NIH programs with a particular emphasis on innovation and risk taking. A portion of these New Innovator Awards is also supported by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Read more…

NIH News (09/24/09)

2009 Transformative R01 Award Recipients

Project Abstract: Organogenesis of Ectopic Tissue in Lymph Node

Pittsburgh Tribune Review (09/24/09)

WPXI (09/24/09)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (09/24/09)

Bio: Dr. Eric Lagasse