News and Events

May 2014

It is our pleasure to present to you the most recent issue of the Joint Institute (JI) quarterly newsletter. In this issue, we highlight the JI Institutional Review Board and Human Protection Core, share recent awards and training exchanges, and provide updates from the JI Programs and Cores.  You will also find recent news from both of the JI institutional partners and information about the 2014 Call for Proposals and the upcoming JI Annual Symposium. Read the April 2014 Newsletter here.


February 2014

Halfway through a one-year pilot study on how the respiratory microbiome is affected by known contributors to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), four countries are beginning to submit their samples to the University of Michigan for genetic sequencing and analysis.  The study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is the first multi-country study focused on this particular microbiome and comes as a direct result of work began in 2010 when the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) partnered with the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) in Beijing, China to form the Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research (JI).

Dr. Margaret Gyetko, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Faculty Development and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School is the Principal Investigator for the grant “A Multi-Center International Study of the Lung Microbiome in COPD”.  Dr. Gyetko also serves as the co-lead for the pulmonary disease program within the JI along with her PUHSC counterpart, Professor Bei He (read about this JI program and the investigators here). 

According to Gyetko, prior to the Joint Institute research, the pulmonary microbiome had barely been described in the US and had not been described in any shape or form outside of the US; nor had there been any international studies to date.  She explains, “Because of our work within the JI, we were invited to attend a global network meeting of the NHLBI to present our early findings in China.” “At the time,” she adds, “most everything they were doing had to do with cardiovascular disease and they very much wanted to bring in some solid work on the lung.”  Gyetko and other team members shared their lung microbiome work to an NHLBI global network sub-committee and representatives from more than 10 international sites that were doing pulmonary work. NIH officials subsequently invited the JI investigators to submit a pilot grant using a multi-international center model.

Despite the fact that sequestration had already hit, in early Summer 2013 the UnitedHealth Group & NHLBI Collaborating Centers of Excellence awarded nearly $600,000 in direct costs to support their proposal for a 4-country, one-year pilot. 

The study, which is administered and coordinated through the University of Michigan, examines the effects of known contributors to COPD (including smoking, use of biomass fuel for cooking and heating, and air pollution) in four countries: China, Peru, Nepal, and Bangladesh.  Sputum samples from 50 subjects at each site (half of whom have COPD, and half who do not) from some of the collaborating sites are completed, while the others are near completion. 

“One of the things that makes this project so exciting,” shares Gyetko, “is that the four study sites are extremely diverse.”  She notes that in China, for instance, COPD is an enormous problem exacerbated in the urban areas by the compounded effects of the high rate of smoking plus the heavy air pollution. In the more rural areas, the use of biomass fuels such as coal and dung used in the home under poorly ventilated systems are a grave concern.  Similarly, in Nepal and Peru the kitchens are inside the home, but biomass fuels are used for heat in addition to cooking providing even greater exposure to risk.  In Bangladesh, on the other hand, cooking is done outside of the home because of the warmer temperatures, and so may offer an interesting comparison.  “The data we collect,” says Gyetko, “will help us—for the first time—assess the question of whether or not (and the extent to which) the use of biomass fuel affects the pulmonary microbiome.”

Although the University of Michigan is not a recruitment site for this particular study, it is handling all of the coordination and training in addition to serving as hub for sequencing, bioinformatics, and biostatistics of the data. Analysis and gene sequencing should be completed by March 2014, with data being presented at the NHBLI global health meeting in April.  Investigators hope that the results gleaned from this project and the related JI work will position them well for future funding opportunities.

Related publication from the JI project:

Erb-Downward John R, Sadighi Akha Amir A, Wang Juan, Shen Ning, He Bei, Martinez Fernando J, Gyetko Margaret R, Curtis Jeffrey L, Huffnagle Gary B: Use of Direct Gradient Analysis to Uncover Biological Hypotheses in 16S Survey Data and Beyond. Sci Rep 2: 774, 2012. PM23336065.


January 2014

The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) and the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research is accepting joint proposals from investigators working collaboratively at both institutions for pilot funding of projects that will demonstrate an effective team approach to discovery and new findings on diseases relative to both countries, and which can be leveraged for extramural funding opportunities. Full RFP is available here.


December 2013

It is our pleasure to present to you the most recent issue of the Joint Institute (JI) quarterly newsletter.

In this issue, we provide highlights from the Third Annual Symposium of the Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research including the Executive Board, Research Sessions, and the Alumni Dinner. You will also find updates from the JI Programs and recent news from U-M and PUHSC. Read newsletter…


October 2013

The Third Annual Symposium of the Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research was held October 9-11, 2013 in Beijing, China. More than 200 participants attended the 2013 symposium, including 50 members of the University of Michigan (U-M) community.  The U-M delegation represented more than 15 different departments within the Medical School as well from the Schools of Kinesiology and Public Health, the Center for Chinese Studies, and the Office of International Giving.

The Joint Institute (JI), a partnership between the University of Michigan Health System and Peking University Health Sciences Center (PUHSC), was launched in October 2010 and sponsors high-impact collaborative research that leverages the unique strengths of each university to advance global health. The Joint Institute's research programs focus on four pervasive medical conditions: cardiovascular disease, liver disease, pulmonary disease, and renal disease. In each of these areas, panels of experts from both universities have identified promising clinical and translational research studies that will be conducted jointly by teams at each university.

In addition to a robust scientific schedule, project-specific discussions, and setting an agenda for future initiatives, the annual meeting in Beijing—three years after the Joint Institute was formed—provided an opportunity for introspection; a time to truly appreciate all that has taken place over the past 36 months. During the JI Executive Board meeting, co-leaders Dr. Joseph Kolars (U-M) and Professor Weigang Fang (PUHSC) summarized many of the accomplishments the investigative teams have made, including:

•  All six initial projects are actively enrolling patients: ~9,000 patients have been enrolled to date with additional stored samples from 10,000 patients.       

•  Six peer-reviewed articles have been published.

•  Two external grants have been secured to support the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and the Hepatitis C Virus projects.

•   Renal disease has been added as the fourth research program.

•   Six new projects were awarded in September 2013, expanding the JI into new research areas. Another Call for Proposals is expected to be released in January 2014.

•   Training & Exchange Programs have been established and are enjoying success:
Two fellows funded by the Fogarty NIH Global Health Research Training Grant have been trained at PUHSC; more than 30 MD students, residents/fellows, scholars/faculty have been cross-trained at two universities; a new joint MD/PhD program will make its first awards for Fall 2014; and three trainees are enrolled in the U-M Nursing School research coordinator training program.

•  The JI is receiving increasing international attention and the model has been presented at several conferences/scientific meetings.

Through this partnership, UMHS and PUHSC are enabling scientists to translate basic research more quickly and efficiently into medical practice and improve outcomes for patients in the US, in China, and around the world.


October 2013

Through an investigator-initiated grant funded by the Collaborative Science Research & Operations, Global Development & Medical Affairs Division of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Dr. Anna Lok, MD, and her colleague Professor Wei Lai, MD, PhD, have earned support to continue a Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) project that began about three years ago through the Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research (JI). 

Dr. Lok, Director of Clinical Hepatology and Associate Chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS), and Professor Lai Wei, MD, PhD, Director of the Hepatology Institute at Peking University People’s Hospital, were among the initial investigators when the University of Michigan Health System established the Joint Institute with its partner, the Peking University Health Science Center. They co-lead the HCV project, which strives to identify genetic and other markers that predict the progression from chronic HCV infection to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and to identify and validate blood markers of liver fibrosis and early HCC.

The five-year award of $1.46M was announced in October at the Third Annual Symposium of the Joint Institute in front of more than 150 colleagues from the University of Michigan and collaborating institutions in China.  Dr. Lok and Professor Wei received funding from the JI for their project in April 2011. To date, they have enrolled a total of 1,400 patients (and are on track to reach their goal of 1,000 per institution by early 2015). They have published one peer-review article together with another one in preparation. They have also worked together to support UMMS M1 students’ global projects in 2012 and 2013 and plan to support similar endeavors in 2014. They have an additional funding proposal under review at the National Science Foundation-China.

Funding for this continuation project “Incidence and risk factors for hepatitis C virus related cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma: A comparative study of two cohorts of patients in China and the United States” is expected to begin in January 2014 and will be spread over a 5-year period.


October 2013

It is our pleasure to present to you the most recent issue of the Joint Institute (JI) quarterly newsletter.

In this issue, we provide information about the Third Annual Symposium of the Joint Institue for Translational and Clinical Research, highlight the new renal disease program, and share with you some of the recent JI scholarly exchanges, honors, and awards. You will also find the regular updates from the JI Programs and Cores. Read newsletter...


September 2013

Ten University of Michigan of Medical School (UMMS) faculty members interested in building research partnerships with counterparts at the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) have been awarded travel grants to attend the Third Annual JI Symposium. The recipients represent a variety of disciplines and UMMS departments, including Human Genetics, Physiology, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Emergency Medicine, and Cardiac Surgery.

UMHS and PUHSC sponsored the travel awards in an effort to foster collaborations between US and Chinese investigators that may result in new research projects within the Joint Institute.  In addition, PUHSC sponsored the travel of three UMMS faculty who will be presenting at the symposium: Professor Robert W. Neumar, Professor Bishr Omary, and Professor Frank C. Brosius.

The 2013 symposium will be held in Beijing, China, October 9-11. We look forward to seeing the grant recipients and the rest of the attendees in Beijing! 

September 2013

In early 2013, a call for joint proposals went out to investigators working collaboratively at both JI institutions for pilot funding of projects that would demonstrate an effective team approach to discovery and new findings on diseases relative to both countries, and which could be leveraged for extramural funding opportunities. Six awards were made: Two Full Awards of up to $400k/year for two years; and Four Discovery Awards of up to $100k/year for two years.
Discriptions of the newly funded projects can be found here.

April 2013

It is our pleasure to present to you the most recent issue of the Joint Institute quarterly newsletter.

In this issue, we highlight the Biorepository and Biomedical Informatics (BRBI) Core and introduce you to the JI co-leads, Dr. Kai Zheng and Professor Yanfang Wang.  You will find the normal announcements and updates from the JI Programs and Cores and important visits that have happened between U-M and PUHSC over the past few months as well as an update on the new JI grant opportunity and the dates for the Third Annual Joint Institute Symposium. You may also read about three Medical School residents who spent their clinical rotations in Beijing under the mentorship of JI collaborators and about the visit of Professor Hong Zhu who spent one month in Ann Arbor observing patient care in the pulmonary clinics in the health system. Read newsletter...