LCOM & Department News

Larner Team Plays Role in NIH COVID-19 Blood Clotting Treatment Trials

September 10, 2020 by Jennifer Nachbur

The University of Vermont (UVM) is participating in a major national research effort to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of varying types of blood thinners to treat adults diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19—the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

(Stock photo)

The University of Vermont (UVM) is participating in a major national research effort to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of varying types of blood thinners to treat adults diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19—the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of two of three adaptive Phase 3 clinical trials September 10.
 
Antithrombotics, also known as blood thinners, keep blood proteins or platelets from clumping or sticking to each other, but doctors have not yet determined if, and at what point in the course of COVID-19 infection, blood thinners might be effective at treating patients with this condition. Researchers have noted that many patients who have died from COVID-19 had formed blood clots throughout their bodies, including in their smallest blood vessels. This unusual clotting, one of many life-threatening effects of the disease, has caused multiple health complications, from organ damage to heart attack, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.
 
Part of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) initiative, these trials will be conducted at more than 100 sites worldwide and will involve COVID-19 patients who have not been hospitalized, who are currently hospitalized, and who have been discharged after hospitalization for moderate to severe disease. Collectively known as ACTIV-4 Antithrombotics, the common goal of the three trials is to give doctors critical insights to improve the care of patients with COVID-19 and prevent life-threatening blood clots. All three trials will be coordinated by the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and funded through Operation Warp Speed (OWS).
 
“There is currently no standard of care for anticoagulation in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and there is a desperate need for clinical evidence to guide practice,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “Conducting trials using multiple existing networks of research sites provides the scale and speed that will get us answers faster.”
 
UVM's engagement in the ACTIV-4 initiative is three-fold. First, the Laboratory for Clinical Biochemistry Research, led by University Distinguished Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Biochemistry Russell Tracy, Ph.D., drafted the biospecimen collection protocols for the three ACTIV-4 trials, and will receive and house all biosamples collected as part of ACTIV-4 protocols. The lab will also serve as the central laboratory for the studies, working closely with the ACTIV-4 Data Coordinating Center at the University of Pittsburgh and ACTIV-4 Mechanistic Studies Center at the University of Michigan.
 
“We will make ACTIV-4 biosamples available to researchers worldwide to help us better understand how SARS-CoV-2 makes certain people so ill, and how best to treat COVID-19,” said Tracy.
 
Second is an effort led by Professor of Medicine and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., a lead investigator on the RAPID COVID COAG anticoagulation trial that will form a key part of the ACTIV-4 Antithrombotics inpatient clinical trial. RAPID has begun recruiting patients in Canada and Brazil and will soon begin in the U.S. as part of ACTIV-4 Antithrombotics. Cushman sits on the NHLBI Collaborating Network of Networks for Evaluating COVID-19 and Therapeutic Strategies (CONNECTS) Steering Committee overseeing COVID-19 human research.
 
”The speed at which these investigations are being implemented—essentially ‘warp speed’ in terms of the normal research process—is remarkable and a testament to the collaboration of many investigators around the country and our NIH and OWS partners,” said Cushman.
 
Third, Assistant Professor of Surgery Christos Colovos, M.D., Ph.D., will lead the ACTIV-4 Antithrombotics Inpatient Trial at UVM Medical Center, offering Vermont patients with COVID-19 the opportunity to participate in this research and receive potentially life-saving treatment if Vermont experiences another COVID-19 surge. This trial will investigate the safety and effectiveness of different doses of the blood thinner heparin to prevent clotting events and improve outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Additional anticoagulants may be tested, depending on the trial results, and all study participants will continue to receive clinical care as indicated for their condition. UVM will not be participating in the ACTIV-4 Antithrombotics Outpatient trial.
 
“We must use therapies that support the natural inhibitors of clotting in the blood,” said Keith Hoots, M.D., director of NHLBI’s Division of Blood Disorders and Resources. “Heparin has shown promise, but we really need clinical trial data to determine how much blood thinner, or even antiplatelet medication, to give.”
 
“The UVM Larner College of Medicine is proud and honored to participate in these critically important clinical trials to address life-threatening thrombosis in COVID-19,” said Dean Richard L. Page, M.D. “Drawing on our faculty’s expertise in hematology, clinical trial design and biospecimen management, these studies have promise for benefit to Vermont, our nation and the entire international community.”
 
NIH announced the ACTIV public-private partnership in April 2020 to develop a coordinated national research response to speed COVID-19 treatment and vaccine options. Managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, ACTIV brings together multiple partners from government, industry, academia, and non-profit organizations.

 

Past Department Highlights

Congratulations, to Dr. Jason Brazelton, M.D., for being named Physician of the Year by the Vermont Medical Society. "Dr. Brazelton's thoughtful and collabrative approach has improved care in our community and Porter's Medical staff has been incredibly fortunate to work with him." (09/2022)

Litele Cezar de Cruz, Ph.D., a visiting scholar from Brazil in the lab of Dr. Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D., and Nathaniel Shannon, a graduate student in the CMB program, in the lab of Dr. Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., based on their abstracts, have both received a Travel Award from SfRBM to attend the SfRBM Annual Meeting in Orlando later this year. https://sfrbm.org/meetings/2022-annual-conference/. In addition, Nate's abstract was selected to be presented as a talk at the conference. Chris Dustin, a former RBP Ph.D. student, and now a post-doc candidate at University of Pittsburg will also give an oral presentation at the conference. RBP is again well represented at this major conference in our field.

Research Day 2022, the fifth pathology research day was an incredible success. Thank you to the organizers Vice Chair for Research Dr. Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D., Elizabeth Corteselli, Ph.D., post doctoral associate, Nate Shannon, CMB graduate student, and Dr. Rosemary Mattaino, M.D. Thank you as well to the presenters, and moderators for an engaging experience. Four sessions were held spanning the topics of: emerging technologies, and advances in knowledge using new technologies, a panel discussion on having a well-balanced academic career, and presentations from trainees, and internal award recipients. A well attended reception was help in the Hoehl Gallery after the event. (09/2022)

Research Day organizers - 2

(Dr. Fung, M.D., Ph.D., Elizabeth Corteselli, Ph.D., Nate Shannon, Dr. Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D.,)

Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, has received a two-year, $200,000 Lung Cancer Discovery Award from the American Lung Association (ALA). The grant will support her research project, titled "Glutaredoxin, Glutathione Metabolism and Lung Cancer." According to the ALA, "The Lung Cancer Discovery Award is for highly meritorious research projects with the potential to significantly improve and transform diagnostic and therapeutic paradigms; foster innovation, use novel approaches; and/or accelerate progress in lung cancer research that improves patient care and helps save lives." (08/2022)

Congratulations to Dr. Christina Wojewoda on her acceptance, as a Master Teacher, into the Larner College of Medicine Teaching Academy. (8/2022)

Congratulations to Dr. Alex Kaloff on receiving The University of Vermont Medical Center Leadership Award for the second quarter of 2022. (7/2022)

Congratulations to Dr. Rebecca Wilcox on being selected as a member of the 2022-2023 class of fellows participating in the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) Program at Drexel University College of Medicine. Read more (06/2022)

Dr. Elizabeth Corteselli, a post-doctoral fellow in our department and trainee on the VLC T32 training program, is the recipient of a prestigious Parker B. Francis Fellowship Award. She will be recognized during a reception at the ATS conference in San Francisco this coming week. Congratulations Elizabeth! (05/2022)

Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine has been recognized by the Provost and Senior Vice-President for the university of Vermont Distinguished Professor recognition. This recognition is reserved for the most prominent faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to advancing knowledge in their disciplines. This is a significant honor for Dr. Janssen-Heininger. This accolade will be awarded during the spring 2022 UVM Commencement ceremony. Congratulations!! (05/2022)

Dr. Mount and Dr. Threlkeld won a Stout award at USCAP, a Stout award recognizes and awards an individual for the best English language peer-reviewed paper published, which resolves scientific medical problems by studying the anatomic features. Congrats to both! Read paper here: Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2021 May 1 (04/2022)

Congratulations! Jo Conant, M.D. has received the ‘Gender Equity in Medicine and Science Rising Star’ award. This award recognizes a woman or gender minority* faculty or staff member at the Larner College of Medicine who is in the early stage of their career, and who demonstrates excellence in contributions to students, colleagues, and/or the institution in the areas of gender equity and inclusion through service, program development, teaching, research or beyond. The awardee also shows the promise for future contributions and leadership in their field as well as in achieving goals for the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. (02/2022)

LCOM class of 2024 Foundations Awards, Winners and nominees from our Department: Dr. Rebecca Wilcox- nominated for the AMWA Gender Equity Award | nominated for the Foundations Teaching Award; Dr. Pam Gibson– awarded the Silver Stethoscope Award | nominated for the Foundations Teaching Award | nominated for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award; Dr. Jo Conant– nominated for the Silver Stethoscope Award | nominated for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award; Medical Student Matt Hodd-Wells awarded the Ephraim Woll Award for Excellence in General Pathology (01/2022)

Congratulations! Dr. Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. has been appointed Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at the Larner College of Medicine. Read her story. (01/2022)

Congratulations! Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D.– Dean’s Research Laureate Award (Professor) Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger was presented the Dean’s Research Laureate Award on 10/27/2021 at the LCOM State of Research Address and Awards. Please see the PDF slide that was presented at the program. (10/2021)

Heading to clinical trials..."UVM researchers celebrate ‘first-of-its-kind’ mesothelioma treatment headed to clinical trials" – My Champlain Valley News.  University of Vermont researchers have made a breakthrough in their study of possible treatments for malignant mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer linked to asbestos exposure. (10/2021)

Terri Messier, research analyst and lab manager for the Cunniff lab, has been highlighted in the "Meet the Staff" section of the the Larner College of Medicine Dean's Newsletter, October 20, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 20. (10/2021)

Congratulations! Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D. has been named a 2021 Fellow of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine. SfRBM annually confers the special title of Fellow to members who have made outstanding contributions to the association as well as in the field of free radical chemistry, redox biology and antioxidants. (09/2021)

Well done! Christina Wojewoda, M.D., associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, has received, along with her colleague Daniel Rhoads, M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic, the 2021 College of American Pathologists (CAP) Laboratory Improvement Programs Service Award. The award honors an individual(s) serving within the ranks of the CAP Council on Scientific Affairs who has demonstrated exceptional service. The two pathologists serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the CAP microbiology committee. (08/2021)

Congratulations to Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Dr. Albert van der Vliet, Dr. David Seward and their team members for this outstanding acknowledgement (see pdf) from the The American Physiological Society; "your article has been selected for APSselect  (http://apsselect.physiology.org/),  a collection from the APS that showcases some of the best recently published articles in physiological research." (7/2021)

2020-2021 Teaching Award This award is nominated for and voted by medical resdients for idividuals going above and beyond for resident education. Nominees this year: Dr. Agnes Balla, Dr. Kelly Butnor, Dr. Rebecca Wilcox and Dr. Bronwyn Bryant. The winner this year is Dr. Agnes Balla. (06/2021)

Dr. Joanna Conant has become a member of The Teaching Academy at Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. The Teaching Academy sustains and supports an interdisciplinary community of educators who value the scholarship of teaching and learning while facilitating educator development; improve the efficiency and quality of medical education through collaboration and scholarship; and promote an academic environment that increases the value and impact of educators locally, regionally, and nationally.Congrats to Jo on this achievement! (06/2021)

Congratulations to Dr. Arti Shukla on receiving the SAASCR 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award for her seminal contributions to the field of cancer research. Well done Arti!! (5/2021)

SAASCR award 2021

Congratulations!  To Pam Gibson, M.D. who has been awarded 2021 Gender Equity Champion Award which honors Larner College of Medicine community members (faculty, staff or students) who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and service to the advancement of women and those with underrepresented gender identities beyond the scope of their job, area of research, or training. Also, to Joanna Conant, M.D. on her nomination for 2021 The Rising Star Emerging Professional Award which honors a Larner College of Medicine woman or gender minority faculty or staff member who is in the early stage of their career, and who demonstrates excellence in contributions to students, colleagues, and/or the institution in the areas of gender equity and inclusion through service, program development, teaching, research or beyond. (02/2021)

LCOM Foundations Awards: Congratulations to Ron Bryant, M.D. on receiving the Foundations Teaching Award which recognizes the faculty member who provided the most outstanding teaching activities within the foundations curriculum. Also, congratulations to award nominees: Pam Gibson, M.D. for both the Above and Beyond Award and the AMWA Gender Equity Award; Andrew Goodwin, M.D. and Christina Wojewoda, M.D. for the Silver Stethoscope Award and Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award. (01/2021)

LCOM Teaching Academy Recognition for P&LM faculty: Deborah Cook, M.D. and Anne Stowman, M.D. were inducted as Master Teachers and Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. was inducted as a Distinguished Educator. (01/2021)

Mark Fung, M.D., Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has been elected as a new Trustee of the American Board of Pathology. His 3-year term will begin January 2021. Read about it here. (12/2020)

Sarah A. Nowak, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Larner College of Medicine was named the inaugural Blodwen S. Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. (12/2020)

David J. Seward, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Larner College of Medicine was named the inaugural Elmer R. Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. (12/2020)

Terri Messier, Research Analyst and Lab Manager of the Cunniff lab was recently awarded a Dean's Excellence in Research Award from the Larner College of Medicine. Terri has served the UVM community for over 25 years both as a scientist and steward of professionalism. Congratulations Terri!! (11/2020)

Congratulations to Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D. on her selection as a new Fellow of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM) in recognition of her outstanding contributions in the field of redox biology and to SfRBM. (09/2020)

Congratulations to Dr. Joanna Conant, M.D. on her acceptance into the Teaching Academy's Medical Education Fellowship Program. Only 8-10 faculty from across the Larner College of Medicine are selected for participation in the program. Well done, Jo! (08/2020)

Associate Professor, Dr. Laura Greene, MD, has been appointed Interim Assistant Dean for Admissions for the Larner College of Medicine. (08/2020)

Congratulations to Bei Zhang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, the newest graduate of the Medical Education Fellowship Program. The cohort style program is for Larner College of Medicine educators who seek additional preparation for teaching across the medical education continuum. (07/2020)

UVM Health Network’s Genomic Medicine Program is highlighted in the recent issue of Vermont Medicine Magazine, read it here. (05/2020)

Department efforts in COVID-19 research & testing are ongoing at UVM LCOM and the UVM Medical Center. The Rutland Herald/Times Argus ran the following story on these efforts. Teamwork & Testing (04/2020)