Research Day 2019 Crowns DOM Asthma Investigators with Shark Tank Prize

Release Date: 
Friday, February 15, 2019 - 7:15am

The competition was fierce. The pitches of the six research teams hoping to curry favor with the judges were polished. But, in the end, it was Monica Kraft, MD, and Julie Ledford, PhD, who came out on top in the Shark Day competition that served as the grand finale to Research Day 2019 at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson.

[Drs. Monica Kraft and Julie Ledford]

Dr. Kraft, professor and chair of the UA Department of Medicine, the Robert and Irene Flynn Endowed Chair in Medicine and deputy director of the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center at the UA Health Sciences, and her research partner, a UA assistant professor of immunobiology, medicine and cellular and molecular medicine, will use the $10,000 prize for work on mimetic compounds related to a therapy involving a peptide, surfactant protein A (SP-A), that they’re developing to reduce the severity and frequency of asthmatic attacks.

See a mini-photo gallery and links to a larger photo album and video from the event below.

Other competitors for the prize (and their topics) included: Louise Hecker, PhD — “Revolutionizing Therapeutics for Fibrotic Disease”; Michael Kuhn, PhD — “Targeting pathogenic T cells with 5-module chimeric antigen receptors (5M-CAR)”; Marvin Slepian, MD — “PlaKDx Technologies: Precision Point-of Care Platelet Function Technologies to Save Lives”; Eugene Chang, MD — “Practice Makes Perfect: Incorporating Mixed-Reality in Surgical Simulation”; and Nathaniel Hart, PhD — “Rapid Viability and Potency Assessment of Encapsulated Insulin-Producing Cells for Transplant and Treatment of Diabetes.”

The judges included Humberto Lopez, Ginny Clements, Andrew Messing, UA Anesthesiology Chair Randall Dull, MD, PhD, UA President Robert Robbins, MD, and UAHS Sr. Vice President Michael Dake, MD.

UA Interim Provost and College of Engineering Dean Jeffrey Goldberg, PhD, emceed the event.  [Image of Facebook webpost on photo album from Shark Tank contest at COM-T Research Day 2019]

Congratulations Drs. Kraft and Ledford!

See the full agenda here for Research Day, including data blitzes and keynote speakers who delivered "TED Talk" style addresses — among them, Esther Sternberg, MD (“Measuring Health, Wellbeing and Performance Non-invasively: From Molecules to the Environment”); Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD (“Innovations in Brain Science of the Future for Those Who Need a Cure Today”); and Nirav Merchant, PhD (“Working alongside Thinking Machines”). Held Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, it was the inaugural event for the new Health Sciences Innovation Building at the UA Health Sciences campus in Tucson. For more about progress on the HSIB and other construction projects and investment (totaling about $1.25 billion in the past five years) at the UAHS campus, click here.

For all 235 images in the DOM Facebook photo album from the Shark Tank competition, click here or on the image at right. For a more limited selection of those, scroll on. An embedded video from the event is at the bottom of this webpage.