Two New VA Merit Review Awards Bring Total for UW Dermatology Faculty to Five

December 23, 2016

Text by Jonathan Bartnik

 Professor Nihal Ahmad

 Professor B. Jack Longley

Two faculty in the Department of Dermatology, B. Jack Longley, MD, and Nihal Ahmad, PhD, are preparing to start work on new research projects in early 2017 after receiving Merit Review Award funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs this June.

“They scored in the top 2 and 11 percentiles, respectively, [which is] all the more impressive because both grants were awarded by the same study section to the same unit at one VA Medical Center,” noted department chair Dr. Gary S. Wood, MD, via email.

Wood is himself the recipient of an active VA Merit Review Award, along with Vijayasaradhi Setaluri, PhD, and Nihal Ahmad--who, in addition to his new grant, is actively working on a grant awarded in 2014. The new awards for Longley and Ahmad give Dermatology faculty five Merit Review Awards in total, with more than half of basic research faculty receiving funds. Research efforts for all of these awards are administered by the William S. Middleton VA Hospital in Madison, with cooperation from the UW.

Longley’s award, “Epigenetic Control of Melanoma by MAGE Transcription Factors,” will explore the role that MAGE proteins—which are found at higher levels in melanoma cells as compared to noncancerous cells—might play in the melanoma gene structure.

Ahmad’s award, “Role of SIRT3 in Melanoma Development and Progression,” will study how changes to cell metabolism may lead to melanoma development by focusing on the protein SIRT3, which helps control cellular respiration.

Both awards seek to understand how their respective proteins contribute to melanoma development in the hope of discovering new ways to treat and prevent the cancer.

Each grant is worth $650,000 in total direct costs over a four-year period and is competitively awarded.