Pennsylvania Department of Health Announces Nearly $20 Million in Health Research Grant Awards

Thursday, April 8, 2010 Press Release
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HARRISBURG, Pa., April 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Health Everette James today announced five health research grants totaling approximately $20 million will be awarded from Pennsylvania's share of the national tobacco settlement for 2009-2010.

These competitive

grants focus on specific research priorities established by the Health Research Advisory Committee. This year's priorities are cancer vaccines and blindness and visual impairment. Each grant is required to establish a research training program for minority students and faculty in order to create a diverse applicant pool for high-level research positions.

"These grants will support research on ways to improve the prevention and treatment of critical health problems facing Pennsylvanians," said James. "This announcement also reaffirms Pennsylvania's continued commitment to use tobacco settlement dollars to improve the health of its citizens."

The five grants being awarded are:

  • The University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Lincoln University, Salus University, Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh, will receive $4.6 million to investigate the genetic and environmental determinants of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of visual impairment in Pennsylvania. An intervention will be conducted to test the effectiveness of home- vs. office-based rehabilitation in African Americans with visual impairment.
  • Wills Eye Health System, in partnership with Thomas Jefferson University and Temple University School of Medicine, will receive $3.6 million to study ways to reduce racial disparities in vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, a major cause of blindness. Researchers will test innovative interventions to encourage African Americans with diabetes to obtain recommended eye examinations. Despite the fact that annual dilated eye exams are known to reduce the risk of vision loss in people with diabetes, only 50 percent of older diabetics currently follow this recommendation.
  • Drexel University, in association with Cheyney University, Inovio Biomedical Corporation and the University of Pennsylvania, will receive $2.8 million to conduct pre-clinical studies to test the safety and effect on the immune system of a vaccine that is designed to treat persons who are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and have not responded to currently available therapies. Persons with chronic HCV infection face an increased risk of developing hepatocellular cancer, a difficult-to-treat cancer with a poor prognosis. Researchers expect that developing a vaccine to better treat HCV will ultimately lead to a reduction in hepatocellular cancer.
  • Thomas Jefferson University, collaborating with Cheyney University, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Lincoln University, St. Joseph's University and the University of Pittsburgh, will receive $4.5 million to study new vaccine strategies for treating colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Pennsylvania. The research will include studies to encourage participation in cancer vaccine trials and a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effect on the immune system of a guanylyl cyclase C (GCC)-based vaccine for treating colon cancer patients.  
  • The University of Pennsylvania, working in concert with Fox Chase Cancer Center and Lincoln University, will receive $4.6 million to develop and test cancer vaccines and therapies to boost the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells. If successful, these strategies will prolong survival and reduce mortality in patients with ovarian and lung cancers. Together, these cancers account for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths in Pennsylvania.

These grants are awarded as part of the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program (CURE), which supports clinical, health services and biomedical research. 

More information on the use of tobacco settlement funds can be found at the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Web site for health research grants program,, or by calling 717-783-2548.

Media contact: Stacy Kriedeman, 717-787-1783

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health

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