Summary of Research Projects

SUNY Health Research Projects

SUNY Health is one of six SUNY Networks of Excellence. Each network assembles scientists, scholars, and external partners from SUNY campuses to conduct collaborative research in high demand areas. The remaining Networks are SUNY 4E (Energy, Environment, Economics and Education), SUNY Brain, SUNY Materials and Advanced Manufacturing, SUNY Arts and Humanities, and SUNY Teaching, Learning and Assessment.  

To date, the SUNY Health Network of Excellence has invested $1.8 million in a variety of areas, including clinical applications of 3D printing, treatments for degenerative and infectious diseases, biosensors, big data, health disparities and aging. 

2015-2016 Research Projects

2014-2015 Research Projects

2015-2016 Research Project


SUNY partnership to study racial ethnic differences in GI cancer biology.

Award amount: $150,000
PI: Ellen Li, Stony Brook University (SBU)
Co-PI: Juan Carlos Bucobbo, SBU; Paul Denoya, SBU; W. Richard McCombie, SBU, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories; Joel Saltz, SBU; Kenneth Shroyer, SBU; Patricia Thompson, SBU; David Tuveson, SBU; Jennie Williams, SBU; Maoxin Wu, SBU; Raavi Gupta, Downstate Medical University (Downstate); Laura Martello-Rooney, Downstate; Moro Salifu, Downstate; Yalini Senathirajah, Downstate; Shivakumar Vignesh, Downstate; David Tuveson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories

Abstract: Two SUNY medical campuses (Stony Brook University and Downstate Medical University) serving underrepresented minority (URM) communities with cancer health disparities are partnering with the NCI designated Cancer Center at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories (CSHL) to evaluate biological and genetic differences in GI cancers (colorectal and pancreatic) that may link to differences in cancer incidence and outcome observed in racial and ethnic minorities.  In this planning grant we will boost URM biospecimen collection by developing a SUNY Downstate Medical University GI BioBank that operates in parallel to the SUNY Stony Brook University GI BioBank using standard operating procedures.  We are planning the development of an integrative biomedical informatics platform that will link the biospecimens with longitudinal clinical data and with the data generated from these specimens.  The collection of biospecimens will be driven by two pilot research projects, P1 and P2. In P1, we propose to compare genomic and epigenetic profiling of URM colon cancers with non URM colon cancers. In P2, we propose to test the feasibility of adapting an innovative 3-D method to grow pancreatic organoids (miniature pancreas) from progenitor cells (developed in Dr. Tuveson’s laboratory at CSHL) from endoscopic ultrasound guided fine needle core biopsies of human pancreatic cancers collected at the two SUNY campuses.  The infrastructure and preliminary data will be used for the preparation of applications for larger awards (e.g. P50 GI SPORE and U54 CPACHE). 


Optimizing Hammerhead Ribozyme Therapeutics for Retinal Degenerative Diseases

Award amount: $150,000
PI: John Sullivan, University at Buffalo
Co-PI: Caroline E. Bass, University at Buffalo; Paul F. Agris, University at Albany (UA); Ken Halvorsen, UA; MAria Basanta-Sanchez, UA; Pan X. Li, UA; John Danias, Downstate Medical University; Peter D. Calvert, Upstate Medical University

Abstract: Previously tested RNA therapeutics (ribozyme, RNAi) for retinal degenerative diseases had limited rescue effects in animal models, but structure-activity relationships (SAR) were not optimized. We expect to close this gap in knowledge to advance RNA therapeutics with highly efficacious agents able to transfer to human clinical trials for such diseases. Our expert multidisciplinary team was formed to insure technical capability to achieve these goals. We optimize an existing lead hammerhead ribozyme (hhRz) to treat both orphan retinal degeneration, autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP) caused by rhodopsin (RHO) gene mutations, and common dry age-related macular degeneration (dAMD). In both diseases, strong rationale exists to suppress RHO expression in rod photoreceptors to reduce stress and preserve vitality. Our lead hhRz candidate, embedded in a viral RNA scaffold, suppresses human RHO in cells, but improved efficacy would benefit rescue in mouse models. A strong rationale exists for myocilin (MYOC) as a therapeutic target for common primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). Our immediate goals are to transfer the lead RHO hhRz into a smaller scaffold and investigate SARs to maximize efficacy, and develop initial hhRzs against MYOC. Feasibility relates to advanced innovative resources available. Successful outcomes enhance potential for major R24 funding from National Eye Institute (R35, U10 awards) to drive hhRz agents to human trials as investigational new drugs.


Acquiring a randomly selected population of Lyme disease patients

Award Amount: $150,000
PI: Jorge Benach, Stony Brook University (SBU)
Co-PIs: Leslie Hyman, SBU; P. Bryon Backenson, University at Albany

Abstract: Lyme disease is a spirochetal infection transmitted by ticks. There have been over 140,000 cases in residents of New York constituting an epidemic. The SUNY system and the State Health Department had a major role in the discovery of the etiologic agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, and have been conducting research on various aspects of the entity since then. Lyme disease affects the skin, joints, heart and nervous system. Its natural history lasts for years. There have been studies done to address the etiology of the chronic outcomes, but unanimously, these have been conducted in single medical practices, limiting interpretation of the results. Thus, there is no information regarding unbiased outcomes as New York State patients have never been followed in a systematic manner.

To address this gap, we are proposing to do a large-scale retrospective and prospective cohort study of Lyme disease outcomes using patients systematically identified from the largest database of patients in the nation which is that held by the New York State Health Department. Before submitting a grant proposal to the NIH to conduct such a study based on a representative, randomly selected sample of cases identified in the New York State database, a pilot study is required to determine the feasibility of launching the larger study. This application seeks funding from the SUNY Health Network of Excellence for this feasibility study to offer proof that we can enroll a representative sample of patients.


SUNY Network Partnership for Automated Pain Assessment and Pain Management Research

Award Amount: $150,000
PI: Lijun Yin, Binghamton University (BU)
Co-PIs: Omowunmi Sadik, BU; Peter Gerhardstein, BU; Michael Reale, SUNY Polytechnic Institute; Saeed Bajwa, Upstate Medical University (Upstate); Christian Tvetenstrand, Upstate

Abstract: Pain analysis using imaging sensors offers a flexible and non-invasive way to detect pain levels. Likewise, pain measurement has been studied through biochemical transduction mechanisms. Yet, the correctness of both approaches has not been verified. The goal of this proposal is to explore the integration of a novel 4D imaging system and biosensors to assess the level of pain and to correlate with conventional pain scale assessment in a unified framework using a big data analysis method. We propose to develop a systematic, reliable and quantifiable pain assessment sensor hereby referred to as Integrated Biochemical and Imaging Pain Sensors (iBIPS). Our team is assembled from three SUNY campuses and draws expertise from biochemistry, computer science, psychology, neuroscience, and trauma care. This multidisciplinary research team will explore new directions and initiatives aimed at introducing reliable, objective and consistent diagnostic methods of quantifying pain, which has great potential to help clinicians and pain management personnel rapidly and objectively assess the amount of pain and initiate the appropriate response. In the short-term, the technology could be used to correlate acute or chronic pain, which could be treated irrespective of the subjective complaint of the patients. In the long-term, it could reduce the overutilization or sometimes underutilization of pain medications, narcotics, and public health hazards of short term overdose or long term addiction.


SUNY Child Health Disparities

Award Amount: $150,000
PI: Susmita Patu, Stony Brook University (SBU)
Co-PIs: Rachel Kidman, SBU; Joel Saltz, SBU; Peter Winklestein, University at Buffalo; Steven Blatt, Upstate Medical University; Jennifer Manganello, University at Albany; Marilyn Fraser-White, Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health

Abstract: Young children in families with low socioeconomic status (SES) experience a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality compared to their more affluent peers. Exposure to psychosocial risk factors leads to decreased access to medical care and contributes to these disparities. Even when children do access primary care, SES disparities persist because care is not tailored to the unique needs of these families. We need an efficient and robust method to identify children at greatest psychosocial risk so as to develop medical care interventions tailored to their needs in order to reduce disparities. The long-term goal of this Network is to establish a group to build the scientific evidence needed to improve primary care delivery to high-risk children to reduce health disparities. In this planning stage, we will: 1) Create a multidisciplinary network of stakeholders across the SUNY system to develop a tailored preventive care framework for families with varying levels of psychosocial risk; 2) Assess the availability of pediatric health outcome, psychosocial risk data, and clinical decision support capability across SUNY campuses and New York; 3) Establish the predictive ability of a global psychosocial risk instrument for health outcomes among a diverse sample of young children. The Network’s products will position it as a national leader in child health disparities research and serve as a model for other groups seeking to study interventions to improve population health.


Designing new miR-30c mimics and delivery systems to treat cardiovascular disease

Award amount: $150,000
PI: Mahmood Hussain, Downstate Medical University (Dqwnstate) 
Co-PIs: Jahangir Iqbal, Downstate; Sara Irani, Downstate; Srivathsan Ranganathan, University at Albany (UA); Jia Sheng, UA; Maria Basanta-Sanchez, UA; Mehmet Yigit, UA; Darleny Lizardo, University at Buffalo

Abstract: High plasma lipids are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the US. Statins lower plasma lipids and lipoproteins, and reduce CVD in ~ 30-40% of the population. Therefore, there is a need for more successful treatment modalities. We showed that (1) microRNA-30c (miR-30c) reduces lipoprotein production in human hepatoma Huh-7 cells, and (2) hepatic overexpression of miR-30c using lentiviral vectors reduces hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis in mice. As lentiviruses cannot be used for therapeutic interventions, we hypothesize that hepatic delivery of a miR-30c mimic would reduce hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis, and propose to develop miR-30c based drugs to treat CVD. Aim 1 is to synthesize different chemically modified miR-30c mimics (Albany) and evaluate their biological potency in cell culture systems (Downstate Medical University). Aim 2 is to select few potential drug candidates and evaluate their potency in lowering plasma lipids and atherosclerosis in mice. Candidate drugs will be coupled with nanoparticles at Albany, injected into mice and evaluated for the physiological effects at Downstate Medical University. Plasma and tissue lipid analysis will be performed at Downstate Medical University and Buffalo. At the end, we anticipate developing novel patentable miR-30c mimics and delivery systems to treat hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis. These studies will result in collaborative publications, patents, and provide data for an RO1 application.

> Back to Top

2014-2015 Research Project


Drug Discovery and Development of Novel Antibiotics Against Gram-Positive Pathogens

PI: Paul Agris, University at Albany
Co-PIs: Kathleen McDonough, University at Albany; Paul Kostyniak, University at Buffalo; Patricia Masso-Welch, University at Buffalo; Alan Chen, University at Albany; Douglas Kitchen, Albany Molecular Research

Abstract: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other drug-resistant Gram-positive pathogens are a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and yet no new classes of antibiotics have been developed for these bacteria in decades. The goal of this project is to investigate the potential of a family of closely related RNAs as a novel antimicrobial target and to further develop “hit” compounds that are predicted to bind these targets.


3D Printing Tissues and Organoids for Personalized Organ Transplantation

PI: Kaiming Ye, Binghamton University
Co-PIs: Sally Temple, University at Albany, Yunbing Xie, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering; Minglin Ma, Cornell University; Gretchen Mahler, Bimghamton University; Guahao Da, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Sha Jin, Binghamton University; Yi Hong, University of Texas at Arlington

Abstract: Clinical trials of islet transplantation for diabetes treatment have been successful, yet the technology has not become available for the vast majority of diabetic patients due to the scarcity of human donors and immune rejections in recipients. This project aims to develop a new 3D-printing technology to enable custom manufacturing of islets for the treatment of diabetes. Specifically, the researchers are generating individualized islets by printing patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into 3D scaffolds patterned with endothelial cell-embedded vascular conduits. The differentiation of iPSCs into pancreatic cells in the presence of endothelial cells leads to the formation of functional islets ready for use.


Planning Grant to Produce a Road Map to the Creation of the SUNY-Wide Centralized “Big Data” Repository (CIDR) of SUNY Electronic Health Record Data

PI: Peter Winkelstein, University at Buffalo
Co-PIs: Werner Ceusters, University at Buffalo; Peter Elkin, University at Buffalo; Natalie Helbig, University at Albany; Theresa Pardo, University at Albany; Christopher Morley, SUNY Upstate Medical University; John Epling, SUNY Upstate Medical University; Yalini Senathirajah, SUNY Downstate Medical Center; Saurabh Mehta, Cornell University

Abstract: The goal of this project is to produce a roadmap to the creation of a SUNY-wide centralized “big data” clinical-integrated data repository (CIDR) of SUNY electronic health record (EHR) data. By combining EHR data from across SUNY, the researchers can achieve a more comprehensive and valuable “big data” resource than any one campus can by itself. The team believes that a repository of this nature will be a key asset to increase SUNY’s competitiveness for grants and for educational programs, and will position SUNY to be a leader in health care “big data” research.


Exploration of Lipid Transport Proteins as Drug Targets for the Treatment of Tuberculosis

PI: Jessica Seeliger, Stony Brook University
Co-PIs: Mahmood Hussain, SUNY Downstate Medical Center; G. Ekin Atilla Gokcumen, University at Buffalo; Robert Rizzo, Stony Brook University; Markus Seeliger, Stony Brook University

Abstract: The rising incidence of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB), which kills approximately 1.2 million people each year, threatens the efficacy of current therapies. The identification of novel drug targets and inhibitors for the causative bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is necessary to eradicate TB. This project aims to investigate the function and inhibition of lipid-transport mechanisms in Mtb with a goal of developing more effective anti-TB therapeutics.


SUNY Network Aging Partnership (SNAP): Investigating Frailty and Enhancing Lifespan Across the Health Spectrum 

PI: Sharon Brangman, SUNY Upstate Medical University
Co-PIs: Carl Cohen, SUNY Downstate Medical Center; Suzanne Fields, Stony Brook University; Bruce Troen, University at Buffalo

Abstract: This project is establishing the SUNY Network Aging Partnership (SNAP) to coordinate collaborative research across SUNY’s four medical universities to facilitate competition for scientific funding, accelerate publication of research projects, and recruit and mentor trainees. SNAP will focus on aging-related issues with an initial concentration on frailty among persons with dementia, an area of significant clinical, social, and economic importance and about which research is largely absent.


Development of Hand-Held Biosensors for Rapid Diagnosis and Study of Neural Disease and Neurotoxins

PI: Sharon Brangman, SUNY Upstate Medical University
Co-PIs: Gerlinde Van de Walle, Cornell University; Roy Cohen, Cornell University; Magnus Bergkvist, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering; Ji Ung Lee, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering; Theresa Curtis, SUNY Cortland; Elad Levy, University at Buffalo; David Erickson, Cornell University

Abstract: This project focuses on the creation and use of a rapid and highly sensitive hand-held biosensor platform that will advance clinical health care and accelerate diagnosis and detection of human neural pathologies, including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

> Back to Top

SUNY Networks of Excellence