UNC Charlotte’s Graduate School and the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP; http://fapesp.br/en) enter into their fourth round of funding Charlotte and São Paulo based researchers in a joint initiative known as the SPRINT Program, (São Paulo Researchers in International Collaboration). The program’s overarching goal is to initiate research projects that grow into larger efforts which attract funding from FAPESP and the U.S. Federal government. SPRINT, FAPESP and UNC Charlotte’s Graduate School provide seed funding for each of their own teams.
SPRINT, as outlined at http://graduateschool.uncc.edu/deans-office/partnerships-and-initiatives/sprint-program, is currently accepting proposals from UNC Charlotte faculty researchers for joint funding with FAPESP. The maximum budget for each proposal is 20,000 USD from each party. The Graduate School will fund the activities of the Charlotte-based researchers and FAPESP will fund the activities of São Paulo-based researchers. Submissions are being accepted from all fields of Science, Technology, Education, and, Mathematics (STEM). The closing date for submissions is October 26, 2016.
The most recent recipient of a SPRINT award is Dr. Juan L. Vivero-Escoto, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, UNC Charlotte. Awarded 16,450 USD, Vivero-Escoto’s research based project entitled: Multifunctional Hybrid Nanoparticles to Enhance Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) and Photodynamic Inactivation (PDI) Efficacy partners him with world renown researcher Dr. Vanderlei Bagnato and Dr. Natalia Inada, both from the Centro de Pesquisa em Óptica e Fotônica (CePOF) at Sao Carlos University in São Paulo, Brazil. The collaboration combines the expertise of Vivero-Escoto’s UNC Charlotte-based group, in the design, synthesis and characterization of hybrid nanoparticles for photodynamic therapy with the expertise of Bagnato’s team who apply the therapy to cancer and microbial systems.
Photodynamic therapies use drugs that when exposed to light kill nearby cells. Thus the drugs can be targeted to kill disease-causing cells in a specified area.
“This research leverages our ability to work on very small scales (e.g. atoms) together with light-based therapies to treat just the disease without the side effects,” explains Vivero-Escoto. “The targeted treatment of cancer with photodynamic therapy avoids the poisoning of whole patient associated with traditional chemical and radiation therapies. In the case of treating bacterial infections, photodynamic therapy used to kill just the bacteria in the infection contributing to resistance in other bacterial populations which occurs when an antibiotic is administered to the whole body.”
Vivero-Escoto joins prior award recipients Dr. Inna Sokolova, UNC Charlotte Professor and Vice-Chair of Research, Department of Biological Sciences, who manages a 10,000 USD research budget and partners with São Paulo researcher Fernando Ribeiro Gomes, Instituto de Biociências, University of São Paulo, on their joint project researching the effects of extreme seasonality on metabolism and immunity of amphibians in a tropical semi-arid zone. Dr. Xinghua "Mindy" Shi, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics was awarded 20,000 USD just last year, for research based on the proposal entitled: An Integrative Analysis of Protein Kinases in Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Shi has partnered with professor Paulo Arruda, Department of Genetics at State University of Campinas, and Jose Andres Yunes, Principal Investigator at Centro Infantil Boldrini.
“Collaborations between UNC Charlotte and São Paulo address scientific issues that both regions share including fighting cancer, preserving biodiversity and abating the burden of infectious disease such as Zika virus,” explains Tom Reynolds, Associate Provost and Dean of UNC Charlotte’s Graduate School.
As one of Brazil’s largest GDP contributors, the state of São Paulo generates impressive funding for research that is administered by FAPESP. In 2014, FAPESP’s disbursements reached the equivalent of 390M USD.
Dr. Daniel Janies, UNC Charlotte Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics and Director of Global Research Collaborations for the Graduate School, co-chaired the inaugural FAPESP week in Washington DC in (2011) and brought the event to North Carolina in 2013. Janies is the campus liaison to FAPESP and other research stakeholders in Brazil and throughout Latin America.
“The level of access to research funding in São Paulo has allowed their scientists to focus on important problems rather than being overwhelmed with finding financial resources for research,” explains Janies. “By taking the lead to organize these funding programs, UNC Charlotte’s Graduate School is opening doors for much broader collaborations between our faculty and their counterparts in the State of São Paulo.”