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News for BCM Faculty, March 13, 2020
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From the Labs: March’s image shows the three vascular layers of the retina that are important for normal visual function. The image is part of a study led by Dr. Melanie Samuel, assistant professor of neuroscience in the Huffington Center on Aging, that discovered novel genes involved in the organization of vascular layers in the mouse retina.

Academic Council: Coronavirus topped the agenda of the March 9 meeting, with members of the executive leadership team outlining Baylor College of Medicine’s multi-faceted response to COVID-19.

  • Baylor has activated an incident command center headed by President Paul Klotman with Clinical Affairs Dean Jim McDeavitt as incident commander and Provost Alicia Monroe and Research Dean Mary Dickinson over education and research activities, respectively. The ICC is centrally coordinating decision-making for operations, logistics, communications, employee support and affiliate and local government relations.
  • A coronavirus preparedness update is being emailed daily to all faculty, staff, students and trainees and the website will be updated continuously as Baylor's authoritative source of information. Specific questions about policies may be sent to coronavirusinfo@bcm.edu
  • Researchers should notify vpresearch@bcm.edu of any essential activities that require uninterrupted support.
  • A task force of research and clinical leaders is developing in-house resources for COVID-19 testing, with plans to scale capacity and integrate into longer term emerging pathogen planning.
  • In other business, General Counsel Bob Corrigan detailed Baylor’s new 15-year affiliation agreement with Harris Health System to provide healthcare to Ben Taub Hospital and community clinics. Harris Health has signed a separate agreement with The University of Texas Health Science Center for coverage at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and other community clinics. The new agreements take effect July 1.
  • Senate Chair Christie Lincoln reported that the Faculty Senate will hold a special election next week for the chair elect officer position. Lincoln assumed the chair role on the announcement that Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn is leaving the College in June.
  • The Provost proposed establishing a Department of Education Innovation and Technology to prepare faculty as educators and educational scholars. The department would collaborate with clinical and basic science departments to develop program approaches and tools. Academic Council will review the plans and vote on the proposal later this month.

Faculty Kudos

Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston have funded and awarded grants  for nine collaborative research projects, each with investigators from both schools, as part of a pilot program resulting from a 2019 Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions. The grants give awardees $60,000 over 18 months.

  • Dr. Na Li, assistant professor of medicine – cardiovascular research at Baylor, and Dr. Bradley K. McConnell, associate professor of pharmacology at UH, will work on a project titled, “Reprogrammed Cardiac Progenitor Cells into Cardiac Conduction Cells for Heart Repair.”
  • Dr. Nagireddy Putluri, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology and director of the metabolics core at Baylor, and Dr. Krishna M. Boini, assistant professor of pharmacology at UH, will work on a project called “Role of Trimethylamine-N-Oxide in renal aging.”
  • Dr. Bijan Najafi, professor of surgery and director of clinical research in the division of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy, and Dr. Beom Chan Lee, assistant professor of health and human performance at UH, will work on a project called “Remotely-Supervised Game-Based Exercise Platform for Improving Cognition and Motor Function in Adult Cancer Survivors Using Telemedicine.”
  • Dr. Andrew Rice, Nancy Chang, Ph.D. Endowed Professor in the Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor, and Dr. Qin Feng, associate professor of biology and biochemistry at UH, will work on a project called “Discovery of pharmacological modulators for NEAT1 IncRNA and reactivation of latent HIV-1.”
  • Dr. B.V. Prasad, professor and Alvin Romansky Chair in biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor, and Dr. Joydip Das, professor of medicinal chemistry at UH, will work on a project called “Structural Basis for Munc13-1’s Regulation by Bryostatin 1.”
  • Dr. Kendal Hirschi, professor of pediatrics – nutrition and molecular and human genetics at Baylor, and Dr. Xinli Liu, associate professor of pharmaceutics at UH, will work on a project called “Dietary Plant-Based Exosome-Like Xanoparticles Impact the Human Gut Microbiome.”
  • Dr. Malgorzata Borowiak, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology and Emeritus McNair Scholar at Baylor, and Dr. Fatima A. Merchant, associate professor of engineering technology and computational health informatics at UH, will work on a project called “Impact of Cell Microenvironment on Differentiation and Physiology of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells into Pancreatic Islet Cells.”
  • Dr. J. Timothy Stout, Sid W. Richardson Professor, and Margarett Root Brown Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Cullen Eye Institute at Baylor, and Dr. Kamran Alba, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology at UH, will work on a project called “Cataract Surgery Transformation Through Development of a Novel Artificial Hydrogel.”
  • Dr. David Wheeler, professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, and Dr. Frank D. McKeon, professor of biology and biochemistry and director of the Somatic Stem Cell Center at UH, will work on a project called “Haploid Genome Duplication: Mechanistic Insights into a Shortcut in Cancer Evolution.”

College Events

Gatherings: As of 7 a.m. Monday, March 16, lectures, grand rounds, meetings, symposia or other gatherings of more than 25 people at any Baylor event are prohibited. Teleconferencing, distance learning and other electronic solutions as appropriate should be used.

  • Direct clinical activities are not subject to this policy, including patient care huddles and tumor boards.
  • Transition plans for all schools and degree-granting programs are under development and additional guidelines to students and faculty will be forthcoming.

Faculty Opportunities

Curriculum Committee: The Medical School Curriculum Committee is soliciting nominations for a vice-chair and an at-large position. Interested faculty members from all disciplines are encouraged to apply for this important leadership role by close of business Monday, March 23. The Curriculum Committee has the integrated institutional responsibility for the overall design, management and evaluation of a coherent and coordinated curriculum. For more information, please see the Faculty Opportunities page.

Faculty Resources

Coronavirus Overview: The Department of Medicine Grand Rounds, "2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Overview and Current State of the Outbreak," starts at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, March 19. Join this presentation by infectious disease experts Dr. Robert Atmar and Dr. Prathit Kulkarni remotely via Zoom. CME credit offered.

Accessing PHI: Compliance & Audit Services reminds faculty members of the “Dos & Don’ts” of Baylor policy 31.4.02 – Standards for Release of PHI:

  • Use your BCM or affiliate logins (user login) only for job related purposes.
  • Do not use your BCM or affiliate logins to access your own or a family member’s medical record (protected health information or PHI) unless it is related to your BCM job duties.
  • Do not ask other people to access your own or a family member’s medical record unless it is related to their job functions.
  • Acceptable ways to access your own PHI outside your job duties:
    • Set up MyChart in EPIC, or
    • Submit a written request via Release of Information (at BCM use roi@bcm.edu).
  • Acceptable ways to access a family member's PHI outside your job duties:
    • The patient/legal representative can set up MyChart proxy in Epic to allow access to people designated by the patient, or
    • Submit a written request signed by the patient/legal representative to the entity’s Release of Information Department.

Junior Faculty Seed Awards: The College supports new investigators at the assistant professor level who are beginning their careers as independent researchers with the Junior Faculty Seed funding program. Several awards of $30,000 each are available for fiscal year 2021 to help junior faculty prepare to submit applications for outside funding for clinical or basic science proposals. The deadline to apply is April 8. Application instructions and more information are available on the website.

Drug Development: Baylor seeks biological targets with supporting human genetics background information that could intelligently inform initial drug screening and clinical development. Interested scientists and clinicians may provide preliminary information about their genetically informed targets using the online form. A response to this solicitation is not a guarantee of project approval or funding. However, potential funding mechanisms could be available for drug discovery and development of select targets if a partnership to conduct the research plan is established.

Questions or Comments?

Faculty Senate: Please contact your senator for faculty-related questions or suggestions.

Institutional Policy Committee: Contact the Policy Committee to learn more about College policies and procedures.

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