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Activities Update:

Happy summer! We will be taking the month of July off from our seminar series, but will resume our regular schedule in August. Our speakers for the rest of 2019 have been lined up and are listed below, but you can also check out more information about our upcoming seminars here.

  • August 13: Andrea Hayes-Jordan, MD
  • September 10: Stephen Kingsmore, MD, DSc
  • October 8: Mike Breen, PhD, and Meghan E. Rebuli, PhD
  • November 12: Sue Tolleson-Rinehart, PhD
  • December 10: Evan S. Dellon, MD, MPH

The Children’s Research Institute is excited about growing our CRI Leadership team as we push forward with multiple initiatives aimed at increasing the success of children’s health research at UNC. We have nominated 3 Associate Directors who will work together as a team with current CRI Leadership, as well as in their individual roles to accelerate our objectives that include: increasing collaborative interactions among research faculty at UNC, providing mentorship to junior scientists, and accelerating funding and research output of UNC investigators who have a pediatric focus.

Our new Associate Directors for the CRI are:

  • Ian Davis, MD, PhD, Associate Director of Basic Research
  • Michelle Hernandez, MD, Associate Director of Clinical Research
  • Ilona Jaspers, PhD, Associate Director for Scientific Development

We are thrilled to have them on board to support pediatric research at UNC!

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sherritta Semerzier, RN! Sherritta recently joined the CRI Pediatric Clinical Research Unit (Peds CRU) as our new Research Nurse Coordinator. She comes to Peds CRU after working in the areas of Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Wound Care at UNC Healthcare and UNC Physicians Network. We are very excited to have her join our CRU and help build our portfolio of pediatric clinical research studies. Welcome, Sherritta!

Research Update:

This week we received the Notice of Award for the Unified Program for Therapeutics in Children (UPTiC) T32, led by Ian Davis, MD, PhD here at UNC and Sallie Permar, MD, PhD at Duke University. The central mission of UPTiC is to train pediatrician-scientists to lead the development, implementation and evaluation of novel prophylactics and therapeutics for pediatric populations. We are actively recruiting candidates and need your help. Please share the news and have interested pediatric fellows email Suzanne Kennedy ( or the Children’s Research Institute ( for an application. Completed applications are due July 14.

Congratulations to Haiyan Fu, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Genetics and Metabolism, on notice of funding of her R21 proposal, “Rapid Transient Depletion of Pre-existing Antibodies for rAAV Gene Delivery” from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease! Adeno-associated-virus (AAV) vectors are the basis for many gene therapy products, but are currently only eligible to individuals without anti-AAV antibodies. Dr. Fu’s proposal aims to temporarily remove pre-existing anti-AAV antibodies and examine the impact during gene therapy delivery for Mucopolysaccharidosis IIIB (Sanfilippo syndrome). This project has high potential for expanding gene therapy products to wider populations for different disease types.

Congratulations to Uma Nagarajan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases, who was recently awarded School of Medicine Boost funding to support her work to generate preliminary data to enhance the resubmission of a new R01 to study the contribution of IL-1 alpha on chlamydial pathogenesis. In addition, Dr. Nagarajan has been awarded a NC TraCS research grant for a project entitled: “Inhibition of Cytokine Signaling Pathways during Chlamydia infection to protect from Oviduct pathology.”

We’d also like to congratulate Kate Westmoreland, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Hematology-Oncology for funding of her K01 proposal “Understanding Methotrexate Dosing, Pharmacokinetics, and Toxicities for Burkitt Lymphoma in Malawi,” from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute and the Fogarty International Center! Dr. Westmoreland’s proposal focuses on Burkitt Lymphoma, the most common form of cancer in children and young adults in sub-Saharan Africa. Her project will implement a methotrexate pilot clinical trial to develop a population pharmacokinetic model that can be used to optimize treatment regimens and ultimately, improve survival rates.