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Medica, through its grant-making arm the Medica Foundation, has awarded $5 million to the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics to support three research projects in cancer and heart disease, as well as two projects to provide critical research infrastructure improvements. The support underscores Medica's commitment to improve health care in Minnesota and minimize the risk of two of the most common causes of death for people in the state.
"Medica is pleased to support the advancement of the science behind treatment of these diseases," said John Buck, chair, Medica Board of Directors. "We are committed to controlling health care costs and improving efficiencies in the delivery of health care. Investing in the Minnesota Partnership is an ideal way to do this because it brings together leading researchers who are working to find the most innovative and effective ways to improve care for these diseases while reducing costs, and that ultimately will benefit our members and the people of Minnesota."
The three funded research projects will focus on preventing congestive heart failure, determining biomarkers of progressive colon cancer, and using nanotechnology to advance cancer research. Each project is led by co-investigators, one from Mayo Clinic and one from the University of Minnesota. The Medica funding will also provide infrastructure support for ongoing research in two areas: bioinformatics and obesity research. The Partnership recently announced five other projects funded by the Minnesota Legislature. Medica's five projects bring the total of current Partnership projects to 24.
"We know that the state's on-going commitment helps the Partnership attract private sector and federal research support for these critical areas of science," said Frank Cerra, M.D., Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota. "Support from the Medica Foundation is further evidence that the private sector is able to leverage their investment and be a part of advancing collaborative research that changes people's lives."
"Our sincere thanks to Medica for this great support which builds on our research strengths and helps broaden the scope of the Partnership within the state," says Glenn Forbes, M.D., CEO, Mayo Clinic Rochester. "This joining of forces with other organizations is a keystone of the Partnership plan to make Minnesota a national leader in biosciences. That vision is now becoming reality."
The Minnesota Partnership is a collaborative research initiative between the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the state of Minnesota. It joins the investigative strength of Minnesota's two nationally regarded academic medical centers to bring new treatments to the people of Minnesota and help improve the state's economy.
Serving more than 1.3 million members, Medica is a health insurance company headquartered in Minneapolis and active in the Upper Midwest. The non-profit company provides health care coverage in the employer, individual, Medicaid, Medicare and Medicare Part D markets in Minnesota and a growing number of counties in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Medica also offers national network coverage to employers who also have employees outside the Medica regional network.
Five Medica-Funded Projects
Lincoln Potter, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
John Burnett, MD, Mayo Clinic
Design and Characterization of Novel Natriuretic Peptides for the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure
This team is investigating an important family of hormones that regulates the heart and cardiovascular system during heart failure. They determine the mechanism that turns one receptor on and the mechanism that turns another related receptor off. These researchers have developed a novel drug that activates these receptors. This project will determine how the drug works and why it is more effective than current drugs. They will also develop new drugs that more effectively activate these receptors to provide improved treatment of congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.
Stephen C. Ekker, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Debabrata Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
Minnesota Partnership for Translational Nanotechnology in Cancer
Because cancer can grow in many areas of the human body, therapies differ considerably depending upon the site and stage of the cancer. Conventional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have limits, such as high toxicity and both target normal and malignant cells. An ideal therapeutic approach to cancer is to deliver multiple drugs specifically to the primary tumor and to areas of metastasis while noninvasively monitoring the progress. This team has formed the University of Minnesota/Mayo Clinic Nanotechnology Alliance (UMMCNA) to design, develop and implement nanotechnology and nanoscience to detect cancer and create cancer therapies. The alliance will use the vast expertise of its investigators across multiple areas of cancer research, establishing Minnesota as a national center of excellence in the nanobiology of cancer.
Clifford J. Steer, M.D., University of Minnesota
Stephen Thibodeau, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
The Identification and Validation of miRNA Signature Profiles as Biomarkers for Colon Cancer Progression
Colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer in both men and women in the United States. This research team is investigating miRNA, small pieces of RNA that regulate the expression of proteins. Researchers have found miRNAs differentially expressed in human cancers including breast, lung, liver and colon cancers and lymphoma.. Better understanding of miRNAs will provide insight into colon tumor progression, and manipulation of miRNAs may lead to improved screening methods and therapy. Mayo’s tumor bank and considerable experience with leading large-scale genetic projects, including microarray studies, is complemented by the University’s expertise in microarray technology to analyze tissue samples. The team will work to advance the fields of miRNA and colon cancer to decrease the incidence of colon cancer.
Vivek Kapur, B.V.Sc., Ph.D., University of Minnesota
David Smith, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
MINGEN 2 - MINnesota GENomics Infrastructure Initiative 2
MINGEN, which received Partnership funding, provides state-of-the-art equipment for genomics research at the University and Mayo, promoting collaborations between the two institutions. MINGEN 2 provides several additional items to expand this partnership, such as newly developed methodologies to inactivate the expression of any human or mouse gene, and then to study them in their respective systems. This powerful technology received the Nobel Prize for its creators. MINGEN 2 sets up a core laboratory to manage and supervise these processes at the University, in coordination with a new lab at Mayo. Investigators at either institution can quickly and inexpensively define the expression of any gene of interest.
Catherine Kotz, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
Shared nuclear magnetic resonance body composition analyzer to improve Minnesota Partnership obesity research
Body composition refers to apportioning body weight into fat, muscle and water. Obesity is excess accumulation of fat tissue. The best obesity treatments lower body fat without reducing muscle mass. This team is studying how the body stores fat, how the brain controls the deposition of body fat, and how to reduce body fat. These researchers are also studying how physical activity is controlled, and treatments that increase muscle mass and reduce fat mass. A specific gene may increase physical activity. However, at this time it is unclear whether this increased physical activity results in increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass – or whether both fat and muscle mass are reduced. This project uses equipment that helps researchers make these determinations in animal models.
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Greg Bury, 952-992-8437
Bob Nellis, 507-284-5005
Sarah Youngerman, 612-624-4604
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