San Antonio Life Sciences Institute awards $200,000

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The San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI) has awarded $200,000 through its innovation grants to lead scientists at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) conducting research on technology solutions in health care.

SALSI, a collaborative partnership established between the Health Science Center and UTSA by the Texas Legislature in 2003, has strengthened research in the life sciences, one of the fastest growing industries in our state and a $30.6 billion industry in San Antonio. The grants awarded through the Innovation Challenge are high-risk, high-reward studies that have the potential to create groundbreaking research directions in health informatics and bioinformatics.

Recipients of this year’s grants are Yidong Chen, Ph.D., at the Health Science Center and Yufei Huang, Ph.D., at UTSA, who are conducting research in cloud computing to offer greater precision in medicine, and David Akopian, Ph.D., at UTSA and Amelie Ramirez, Dr. P.H., at the Health Science Center, who are researching mobile messaging solutions for health promotion interventions. Dr. Ramirez is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine.

Chen’s and Huang’s proposed research titled “A Cloud Computing Pipeline for Precision Medicine” was reviewed by external peer reviewers from Oak Ridge Associated Universities Inc. (ORAU), based in Tennessee, and will receive $100,000 from SALSI. An innovative component of their study is the exploration of integrating electronic medical record data from health care providers in the San Antonio area with linked genomics data. “What is particularly exciting about these collaborative grants is that they not only provide an initial investment in innovative research ideas, they bring scientists and institutions together to significantly accelerate and broaden the impact of their work,” said Bernard Arulanandam, Ph.D., assistant vice president for research support at UTSA.

Akopian’s and Ramirez’s research proposal, “An Interactive Automated Mobile Messaging Service for Mobile Health Promotion Interventions,” also reviewed by ORAU, will receive $100,000 in grant funding from SALSI. A key area of the mobile technology study is the possibility of allowing non-technical project organizers to program multistage automated protocols though a low-cost, user-friendly, non-technical interface that would allow health promotion researchers to communicate with patients and health care providers participating in health studies.

“Biomedical breakthroughs and new cutting-edge research paths often depend on the development and integration of innovative technologies in research,” said Andrea Giuffrida, Ph.D., vice president for research at the Health Science Center. “This year’s Innovation Challenge grant recipients proposed to take research in a new direction within the field of data analytics with potential high-impact results.”

In addition to the Innovation Challenge grants, SALSI provides collaborative research opportunities for scientific, educational and industry partners throughout South Texas.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, with missions of teaching, research and healing, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities. Its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have more than 32,200 alumni who are advancing their fields throughout the world. With six campuses in San Antonio and Laredo, the university has a FY 16 revenue operating budget of $801.8 million and is the primary driver of its community’s $30.6 billion biomedical and health care industry. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is an emerging Tier One research institution specializing in health, energy, security, sustainability, and human and social development. With nearly 29,000 students, it is the largest university in the San Antonio metropolitan region. UTSA advances knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. The university embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property—for Texas, the nation and the world.

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