LCOM & Department News

UVM Hosts NIH NERIC Conference & Leahy Visit

August 14, 2017 by Jennifer Nachbur

The Vermont Genetics Network (VGN) and Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases (VCIID) at the University of Vermont hosted more than 300 National Institutes of Health-funded biomedical researchers from across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Delaware for the North East Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) August 16 to 18, 2017 at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy delivered remarks at the conference on August 17.
The Vermont Genetics Network (VGN) and Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases (VCIID) at the University of Vermont hosted more than 300 National Institutes of Health-funded biomedical researchers from across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Delaware for the North East Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) August 16 to 18, 2017 at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy delivered remarks at the conference on August 17.

Vermont is one of 24 states in the country designated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as eligible for Institutional Development Awards (IDeA. The IDeA program, which is based in the Research Capacity Building section of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, provides funding designed to build the infrastructure for biomedical research in smaller states like Vermont, in order to boost the careers of biomedical researchers, and grow and diversify the biomedical workforce in the state. In general, IDeA awards help develop research programs at both university and baccalaureate institutions and ensure faculty can be competitive for NIH funding.  

Once a decade, the North East Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) is held in Vermont. The 2017 meeting was led by UVM faculty members and IDeA Award Principle Investigators Judith Van Houten, Ph.D., and Ralph Budd, M.D. Van Houten leads the VGN, which is funded through an INBRE – IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence – award. UVM also has two COBRE – Center of Biomedical Research Excellence – awards, which support the VCIID, which is led by Budd, and the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health at UVM. The VGN is in its third five-year phase and has been supported by $56 million in IDeA grants. The VCIID has been supported in its three phases by $27 million from IDeA. The newest Center on Behavior and Health is currently supported by an $11.5-million-dollar IDeA grant.  

The goal of the NERIC conference is to provide a platform for biomedical scientists to learn from colleagues about the latest research in the region in the areas of infectious diseases and immunology, neuroscience, bioinformatics, development and genetics, and cancer. A special session on entrepreneurship will feature experts from the NIH, U.S. Patent Office, and business and venture capital fields. In addition, there will be career development sessions for undergraduate and graduate students, who will also have an opportunity to present their research via posters, which allows them to share complex ideas in short, “elevator pitch” style settings. UVM core facilities, which feature the latest cutting-edge technologies and encourage sharing of research resources to stretch tax payers’ dollars, will also be highlighted at the conference.    

Senator Leahy addressed conference attendees about the importance of sustaining funding for agencies such as the NIH, and the Research Capacity Building programs that fund IDeA.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy has championed funding for such science agencies as the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency.

UVM President Tom Sullivan and Provost David Rosowsky joined Budd and Van Houten in welcoming attendees at the conference’s opening on August 16. 

Among the UVM and VGN faculty members who presented at the NERIC meeting are: Jason Botten, Ph.D., UVM assistant professor of medicine, who recently received a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to produce human neutralizing antibodies to hantavirus by cloning the immunoglobulin genes from B cells of patients who have survived hantavirus infection; Iwona Buskiewicz, Ph.D., UVM assistant professor of pathology, a recent R21 grant recipient, who just published an important study in Science Signaling showing that the type I Interferon signature in blood lymphocytes of lupus patients is driven in part by oxidative stress-induced aggregation of a protein known as mitochondrial anti-viral signaling protein (MAVS); Keith Mintz, Ph.D., UVM associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, whose work with the VGN Proteomics Core focuses on the identification of proteins needed for fimbrae secretion and biofilm development in the oral pathogen Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; Bill Landesman, Ph.D., a professor of biology at Green Mountain College, who is conducting a  tick research project with support from a $75,000 grant from VGN; Clarissa Parker, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Middlebury College, whose research on mapping genes in mice associated with the behavioral and physiological traits that characterize drug withdrawal is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse through NIH’s R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program; Gina Mireault, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral sciences at Johnson State College, whose research project, which involves undergraduate research assistants, is examining how infants discover humor and amusement and how that relates to bonding, attachment and development.

Learn more about the NERIC conference.

Department Highlights

Yvone Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., Jos van der Velden, Ph.D. (both Pathology & Laboratory Medicine faculty) and senior author, Charles Irvin, Ph.D. (Medicine), published "The Effect of Flavored E-cigarettes on Murine Allergic Airways Disease" in Nature Scientific Reports. The study has been cited in stories by several news outlets: U.S. News & World Report/HealthDay; American Journal of Managed Care; Medical News Bulletin; and Medical Daily. (2019)

Dr. Mark Fung, M.D, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for Population Health, was recently named to the board of directors for the Project Santa Fe Foundation, which “focuses on demonstrating the power of longitudinal clinical laboratory data to proactively augment population health in a value-based healthcare environment.” (2019)


Dr. Bronwyn Bryant, M.D. was named a 2019 Frymoyer Scholar for her project, “Validating Entrustable Professional Activity-Based Assessment to Determine On-Call Competency in Pathology Residents”. (2019)


Dr. Rebecca Wilcox, M.DDr. Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. was selected, by the Larner College of Medicine Class of 2019, to be the commencement keynote speaker. Read more... [Photo credit: Andy Duback 2019] (2019)

Please join Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger in congratulating Allison Manuel and Evan Elko

Dr. Allison Manuel is a post-doctoral fellow in our group.  Her abstract to be presented at the American Thoracic Society conference was chosen to receive an Abstract Scholarship . The scholarship includes a full In-Training Registration to the 2019 ATS International Conference in Dallas, Texas.  

Evan Elko is a PhD student. He just received notice that his F31 NIH application entitled: “Role of peroxiredoxin-4 in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis”  will be funded.

Congratulations to Evan and Allison.


Department alumni, Dr. Bobbi Pritt, M.D. featured in Vermont Medicine Magazine. To read her story click on the photo below.




Dr's Leonard and HuberA Remarkable Gift from Dr. Sally Huber, Ph.D.

At the end of last week's Research Day, Dr. Leonard gave a surprise announcement: a very generous bequethment of $5 million by research faculty emerita, Dr. Sally Huber! The funds will go toward two endowed professorships for junior investigators in our department. The endowments will be named for her parents, Elmer R. Huber and Blodwen S. Huber, and will support junior research faculty for five years.(9/2018)

This amazing support will allow junior faculty time and funds to gain independence while pursuing the milestone achievement of being awarded their first R01 grant.

Heintz Awarded 2018 Distinguised Graduate Alumni Award

Dr. Nick Heintz, Ph.D. received the 2018 UVM Medical Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award​, which is presented to Larner College of Medicine (LCOM) alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in basic, clinical or applied research; education; industry; public service/humanitarianism; and/or outstanding commitment to the LCOM community.

He accepted his award at the college's Celebrating Research Excellence event at the end of October. (September 2018)

Kida Received Certificate of Commendation

Dr. Kida receives award from the State of more here. (August 2018)

Leonard and Committee Publish Through National Academies Press

Dr. Debra Leonard, along with a committee under the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, ​published "Returning Individual Research Results to Participants: Guidance for a New Research Paradigm" through The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2018 (Committee Member). (August 2018)

Excellence in Education

The Larner College of Medicine’s second year medical students nominate and elect faculty who they want to recognize for their outstanding teaching and support over their first years of the Foundations education. (February 2018)

Pathology nominees (winners in bold):

AMWA Gender Equity Award  - Pamela Gibson; Sharon Mount; Rebecca Wilcox

Dean Warhsaw Integration Award - Rebecca Wilcox

Silver Stethoscope Award - Scott Andreson; Maureen Harmon; John Lunde

Above and Beyond Award - Ronald Bryant; Rebecca Wilcox

Foundations Course Director Award -Rebecca Wilcox

Outstanding Foundations Course Award

  • Cardiovascular, Respiratory & Renal Systems: (Ron Bryant; Kelly Butnor; and Pam Gibson are the primary pathologists in each section of the course, respectively)
  • Nutrition, Metabolism & the Gastrointestinal System: Course Director is Rebecca Wilcox

Foundations Teaching Award - Ronald Bryant; Pamela Gibson; Rebecca Wilcox; Christina Wojewoda

Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger Receives Patent

Yvonne Janssen-Heinger was awarded a patent on the ​concept that strategies to inhibit GSTP has utility for the treatment of patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Congratulations, Yvonne! (January 2018)

Drs. Bronwyn Bryant and Phillip Munson inducted into the Teaching Academy

Last week Bronwyn and Phillip were inducted into University of Vermont's Teaching Academy. 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. (January 2018)