Carvunis Lab Highlighted in Pitt Med Magazine
From Jenny Blair & Pitt Med Magazine:
Maria Chikina Awarded NSF Career Grant
Congratulations is in order for Dr. Maria Chikina!! She has been awarded an NSF Career Grant for her project, “Concise descriptors of genomic data facilitate mechanistic inference”.
The project will leverage cutting edge machine learning to develop automated and scalable approaches for summarizing genomic datasets into concise biological descriptors that capture the data generating mechanisms as low dimensional representations. The project will also develop interactive education materials for teaching data science across educational levels and technical backgrounds.
School of Medicine Generates $108M Spike in NIH Funding
From the Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences:
“I’m excited to share that preliminary data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on grants awarded during federal fiscal year 2022 (FFY22) indicate that funding to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has increased to an estimated $550M—a projected rise of nearly $75M over FFY21. This 16% increase far surpasses our challenge goal of achieving 10% growth in FFY22, which ended Sept. 30. Added to the growth of $33M in FFY21, NIH funding to Pitt Med has grown an impressive $108M (24%) over the last two years. These are remarkable accomplishments that directly reflect the extraordinary research excellence and innovation of our Pitt Med faculty. You are to be congratulated.
NIH awards to Pitt Med represented 81% of the overall $675M awarded to the University of Pittsburgh as a whole in FFY22—which itself represents institutional growth of 13% over FFY21. While the finalized NIH 2022 data should be released later this month, the preliminary data move both our School of Medicine and the University from a rank of No. 11 in 2021 to an estimated rank of No. 3 in 2022 for the University and a rank of No. 6 for the School of Medicine.
We are also particularly pleased by the significant increase in the number of large awards. Grants of $10M or more to the University increased from 10 in 2021 to 15 in 2022, with all of these awards coming to the School of Medicine (a $5.6M, 13% year-over-year funding increase). Grants ranging from $5M-$10M grew from 18 to 20, with all 20 of these in the School of Medicine, representing a year-over-year funding increase from $32.8M to $66.9M (104%). Pitt Med also received 25 new grants in the $1M-$5M range (an increase from $199M to $217M or 9% year-over-year).
We have every confidence that our stellar Pitt Med faculty can maintain or even better these NIH award levels in FFY23. We also urge you to continue diversifying your research funding portfolios by considering opportunities from the Department of Defense, the VA, the National Science Foundation, and large philanthropies. Given the vast resources of Pitt Med and UPMC, our greater Pitt campus, and our increasingly engaged communities, we also urge you to continue pursuing opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary team science for which we are so expertly poised.
Once again, congratulations on an astounding year of research growth. I look forward to your continued success.”
Pitt CSB Research on Human Body Hair Featured at University of Utah Health
The University of Utah Health recently published an article featuring research done at the University of Pittsburgh by Nathan Clark, Ph.D., Amanda Kowalczyk, Ph.D., and Maria Chikina, Ph.D. on human body hair– or the lack thereof.
Orangutans, mice, and horses are covered with it, but humans aren’t. Why we have significantly less body hair than most other mammals has long remained a mystery. But a first-of-its-kind comparison of genetic codes from 62 animals is beginning to tell the story of how people—and other mammals—lost their locks.
Humans appear to have the genes for a full coat of body hair, but evolution has disabled them, scientists at University of Utah Health and University of Pittsburgh report in the journal eLife. The findings point to a set of genes and regulatory regions of the genome that appear to be essential for making hair.
The research answers fundamental questions about mechanisms that shape this defining human characteristic. The scientists suspect it could eventually lead to new ways to recover hair after balding and chemotherapy—or in people with disorders that cause hair loss.
The study goes on to show that nature has deployed the same strategy at least nine times in mammals that sit on different branches of the evolutionary tree. Ancestors of rhinos, naked mole rats, dolphins, and other hairless mammals stomped, scuttled, and swam along the same path to deactivate a common set of genes in order to shed their hair and fur.
“We have taken the creative approach of using biological diversity to learn about our own genetics,” says Nathan Clark, Ph.D., a human geneticist at U of U Health who carried out much of the research while at the University of Pittsburgh with Amanda Kowalczyk, Ph.D., and Maria Chikina, Ph.D. “This is helping us to pinpoint regions of our genome that contribute to something important to us.”