NIH Award to Hughes

Hughes' two-year award can be renewed for three additional years if milestones are met.Sept. 20, 2017 - Christopher Hughes, director of the Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology, Francisco J. Ayala Chair of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and professor in biomedical engineering, has been awarded an NIH grant to further his research into human tissue chips. The award includes $740,000 in funding the first year, $500,000 in year two and the opportunity to renew for three additional years if Hughes’ group meets its project milestones. (“We will,” said the PI.)

Hughes is working to create vascularized tissues that can be used for transplant or in the development of 3-D tissue for drug screening. Currently in development are microphysiological systems including heart, skin and bone marrow, as well as colon and breast tumors.

According to the NIH, more than 60 percent of investigational drugs fail in human clinical trials despite showing promise during pre-clinical studies with cell and animal research models. The proposed tissue chip platforms mimic the biological function of human organs and systems, providing a new way to test drug efficacy.

UCI is one of 13 universities and hospitals nationwide to receive $15 million in research funds this year through NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences' (NCATS) Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program. The two-year grants will support development of 3-D human tissue models, which can help model disease and test drug efficacy prior to clinical trials.

"We’re very excited at the chance to develop tools that may help in the discovery of therapeutic drugs for patients with rare, under-studied diseases,” Hughes said of receiving the award.

Other recipients of this year’s NIH funding include Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Northwestern, UC Davis, University of Rochester, Pittsburg, Vanderbilt and University of Washington, along with Cedars Sinai Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

- Anna Lynn Spitzer