Midwestern University Researchers Earn Significant Grants to Support Projects

Faculty researchers work with Midwestern students on important projects

  • AZ - Glendale
  • IL - Downers Grove
Kristina Martinez-Guryn, Ph.D., RD, Adebayo James Molehin, Ph.D., M.S., and Gwendolyn Pais, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor in white coats.

(from left) Kristina Martinez-Guryn, Ph.D., RD, Associate Professor, Biomedical Sciences (CGS-Downers Grove), Adebayo James Molehin, Ph.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Microbiology & Immunology (CGS-Glendale), and Gwendolyn Pais, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor (College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove), all recently received significant external funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support their research.

Midwestern University continues to contribute to scientific advancement by supporting faculty researchers who are investigating important health issues. Working with the University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, three faculty members received significant external funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support their work. With this support, the faculty researchers are poised to make meaningful contributions to their respective fields, driving innovation and improving healthcare outcomes while also providing opportunities for Midwestern University students to gain valuable research experience.

Kristina Martinez-Guryn, Ph.D., RD, Associate Professor, Biomedical Sciences (CGS-Downers Grove) received a $774,044 NIH research grant for her project “Probing short-and-long term consequences of Small and Large Bowel Microbiota Transplants on Host Physiology: Implications for the development of future live biotherapeutics” (a subaward from The University of Chicago); Adebayo James Molehin, Ph.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Microbiology & Immunology (CGS-Glendale) received a $168,603 NIH grant for his project “Antigen and Adjuvant Selection for a Vaccine Against Urogenital Schistosomiasis, HematoShield” (a subaward from PAI Life Sciences, Inc.); and Gwendolyn Pais, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor (College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove), received a $231,480 NIH Career Development Award for the project “Cefepime Physiologically based Pharmacokinetic Models for Cross-Species Extrapolation”  (a subaward from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center). 

This latest round of funding underscores Midwestern University's commitment to advancing knowledge and addressing pressing health challenges through rigorous scientific inquiry. “Midwestern University has outstanding faculty members, some of whom are doing very well with obtaining extramural research awards,” said James Woods, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President of Research. “From the start of fiscal year 2023 through the first three quarters of 2024, researchers on our Glendale Campus have been awarded 27 grants totaling over $7.1 million. Over the same period, researchers on our Downers Grove Campus have been awarded 15 new grants which total nearly $8.1 million. I’m very proud to work with such talented and knowledgeable faculty and staff who contribute to novel discoveries that can impact the world as we know it.”

Dr. Martinez-Guryn’s project aims to understand the intricate relationship between gut bacteria and host health, particularly in different intestinal regions. “We are investigating how disruptions, such as diet or antibiotics, lead to various disorders, prompting interest in Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT). However, our research suggests FMT may not restore the small intestine microbiome adequately, potentially leading to host consequences. Our grant aims to examine regional microbiota transplants on gut microbiota, host immune, and metabolic function, raising awareness of FMT concerns,” she said. Dr. Martinez-Guryn’s research seeks to define the roles of bacteria in the small versus large intestine to improve understanding of how microbe communities affect host physiology. “This information can lead to the development of live biotherapeutics for diseases from inflammatory bowel disease to metabolic disorders,” she added. Aiding her in this discovery are students from the Biomedical Sciences Program on the Downers Grove Campus.

Dr. Molehin's research primarily focuses on understanding how blood flukes, parasitic worms, establish infections in humans and evade the host immune system, as well as developing effective vaccines against these parasites. Working with Midwestern student researchers, his lab employs various technologies, including systems vaccinology approaches, to identify molecules crucial for parasite survival and develop vaccines targeting these key molecules. This approach helps the research team understand vaccine-mediated protection by identifying immune signatures associated with protection. "Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease affecting over 400 million people worldwide, with millions more at risk,” Dr. Molehin said. “It can lead to severe health complications, including bladder cancer if left untreated. Current control measures are inadequate, highlighting the urgent need for an effective vaccine," he added.

Dr. Pais’ research delves into the prevention of drug-induced kidney and brain toxicity. Using pre-clinical models and in vivo pharmacology work, Dr. Pais and her team have established the drug exposures responsible for vancomycin-induced kidney toxicity. Their current endeavor aims to understand the relationship between beta-lactam antibiotics and brain toxicity, utilizing a novel model tailored specifically for studying cefepime neurotoxicity. Dr. Pais explains, "We will develop pharmacokinetic models to predict safe and effective cefepime exposure in critically ill pediatric patients. This research is of paramount importance due to the increasing prevalence of cefepime neurotoxicity, especially in cases where high doses are required to combat resistant bacteria." By establishing a neurotoxicity threshold for cefepime, Dr. Pais hopes to optimize dosing strategies and enhance patient safety in critical care settings. Preliminary data for this grant was generated with the help of Midwestern University students from the College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove, the Biomedical Science Program, and the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Midwestern University’s independent and collaborative research has been featured in national and international scientific publications and presented at national conferences. As these projects illustrate, research plays a pivotal role in improving public health, enhancing educational experiences for Midwestern students, and shaping the future of healthcare. 

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