BY TINA SHELTON FOR THE JOHN BURNS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE – While news coverage from the Olympics often focuses on the contest for medals by athletes representing the United States and China, there are also collaborations between our nations, including a research partnership between the University of Hawai‘i and Jinan University in China, which has just won its own U.S./China Collaborative Award. The scientific team, whose members work together at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), is being honored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation of China.
In addition to recognition, the award comes with precious funding for the international pair to continue to investigate chronic inflammation, which is believed to be a significant cause of cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other health problems. The researchers hope to learn whether some people are more susceptible to inflammation and how to target therapies to treat or prevent inflammation-related illnesses.
The work has been fueled by a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the NIH’s National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID) awarded to Dr. Peter Hoffmann, associate professor in JABSOM’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology.
Hoffmann’s published research into the role of selenoprotein K in regulating inflammation came to the attention of Dr. Zhi Huang of Jinan University about two years ago.
“He contacted me via email, after reading some of our papers,” said Hoffman. “He said he wanted to work as a visiting scholar in our lab.” As you might expect, a certain amount of red tape (including visa approvals) followed, and the partnership was launched.
Huang frequently visits JABSOM, where he is this month, and he also works on the project in his own lab in Guangzhou.
Together, the findings by Hoffman and Huang have led to four published papers in peer-reviewed medical journals as well as the collaboration award, which provides about $100,000 in additional funding to build upon their work.
“Scientific cooperation between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China was initiated over 30 years ago and has grown rapidly in recent years. At the University of Hawai‘i, we are proud of the ties we have with China in a number of our programs, and we look forward to strengthening them,” said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of JABSOM. “This collaboration award shows that both nations value the potential for improving human health which public-funded research can bring about.”