Voucher program supports unexpected research

Friday, March 28, 2014

CTSA-badgeIn 2012, as John Perfect, MD, studied the inner workings of the genes of Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that infects humans and kill 600,000 people a year, he realized he was only looking at half of a problem.

“There is always two sides to an infection—the pathogen and the host,” said Dr. Perfect, James B Duke Professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases. “Our original grant was looking at how the yeast was changing its genes in response to the host, but I was also curious about how the host was reacting to the yeast.”

Problem was, the grant only funded research into one side of the equation, and Perfect didn’t have extra funds to pay for the use of the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Core Resource in the laboratory of Geoffrey Ginsburg that would allow him to look at the modified gene expression in infected animals.

That’s where Duke’s Voucher Program came in.

At Duke, investigators like Perfect have a unique opportunity to access technical resources from brain imaging to gene sequencing through a voucher program specifically designed to promote exciting new studies that are not yet externally funded. Perfect applied to this program and in 2013 used the funds to study how monocytes in mice regulated their genes 14 days after being infected with Cryptococcus.

This joint program with the School of Medicine and the Duke Translational Research Institute offers vouchers from $500 to $10,000 for investigators to spend at any of 62 core facilities or shared resources maintained at Duke. The sources of funding for this program, which began in 2010, include the School of Medicine and Duke’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), provided by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

“We were able to use the voucher money to gather and explore data that simply wasn’t included in our original grant,” Perfect said. That preliminary data will allow Perfect’s team to write a paper and move toward future funding to find ways to fight these infections. “I am so appreciative of the Duke environment that allowed us to apply for this Voucher program to branch out and extend our research from our original grant,” Perfect said. “It has helped us ‘move the science’.” Read the complete article on the DTMI website.

Applications for the Spring 2014 Voucher Program are now being accepted. The deadline for this application cycle is April 30.

Apply to the Spring 2014 Voucher Program.