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Inaugural Nappi awards competition distributes $650,000 to Upstate-SU research collaborators

Inaugural Nappi awards competition distributes $650,000 to Upstate-SU research collaborators

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Ten teams of finalists from Syracuse University and Upstate Medical University competed for a total of $650,000 in a live competition Dec. 11  to determine the winners of the first annual Nappi Family Research Awards.

The Driving Inspiration and Innovation through Collaboration Research Competition attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 to the Life Sciences Complex to hear the teams pitch their proposals for funding to support their research ideas relating to biomedical and health care needs. Teams, which had three minutes to pitch their ideas before a panel of judges, had to include two or more researchers or clinicians representing both campuses.

Finalists went into the competition vying for a slice of $500,000 in prize money. But Syracuse University trustee Sam Nappi and his wife, Carol, who initiated and provided funding for the collaborative research competition, added an additional $150,000 to the pot on Friday, bringing the total funds allocated to $650,000.

“It was incredibly gratifying to see the overwhelming response from both Syracuse University and Upstate Medical University to this competition,” said Nappi. “Syracuse is fortunate to have two such outstanding institutions with diverse research and clinical strengths, as well as faculty eager to partner with one another. These and future such collaborations will just further enhance their impact on urgent challenges relating to health care, while strengthening the alliance between the universities. We are in discussions about a broader multiyear research fund which we plan to announce in early 2016.”

At a reception following the presentations, Syracuse University Provost Liz Liddy announced that the overwhelming response to the competition was so encouraging that the Nappis have decided to continue their support for joint research activity. Liddy said details about a multiyear “matching gift” program will be unveiled in the first quarter of the new year. “This is a terrific opportunity to continue building on this momentum, and I am so grateful to Sam and Carol for jump-starting, and continuing to support, such an important initiative,” Liddy said.

Following are the award-winning teams along with their proposals and total funding awarded. Faculty from Syracuse University represented the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Arts and Sciences.

  • James Henderson (biomedical and chemical engineering, Syracuse University) and Megan Oest (orthopedic surgery, Upstate), “Smart materials for accelerated single-surgery repair of bone defects.” ($100,000)
  • Kevin Antshel (psychology, Syracuse University) and Henry Roane (pediatrics, Upstate), “Developing a behavioral parent training program specific to high frequency maladaptive behaviors in autism spectrum disorder.” ($100,000)
  • Stewart Loh (biochemistry and molecular biology, Upstate) and Carlos Castaneda (biology and chemistry, Syracuse University), “New inhibitors of p53/MDM2 binding to treat cancer.” ($100,000)
  • Ivan Korendovych (chemistry, Syracuse University) and Andrzej Krol (radiology, Upstate), “Novel probe for noninvasive detection of hepatocellular carcinoma by Positron Emission Tomography.” ($100,000)
  • Gary Winslow (microbiology and immunology, Upstate) and Mandy Esch (biomedical and chemical engineering, Syracuse University), “Human Immunoglobulin Repertoire Initiative.” ($50,000)
  • Juntao Luo (pharmacology, Upstate) and Shikha Nangia (biomedical and chemical engineering, Syracuse University), “Engineering nanocarriers for brain tumor treatment.” ($100,000)
  • William Kerr (microbiology and immunology; pediatrics; biochemistry and molecular biology, Upstate) John Chisholm (chemistry, Syracuse University), “Exploring SHIPi to combat obesity and metabolic syndrome.” ($100,000)

David Amberg, vice president of research for Upstate Medical University, said the competition bodes well for future scholarly collaborations. “What Sam and Carol Nappi have stimulated with their generosity is a game changer for the Hill,” said Amberg. “This initial round of funding led 112 faculty to begin working collaboratively on nearly 50 new research projects. The public competition was particularly gratifying with the large auditorium filled to standing room. The excitement and interest were unprecedented and will have a ripple effect to generate even more faculty engagement in future rounds.”

Gina Lee-Glauser, vice president for research at Syracuse, echoed those sentiments. “I was delighted with the level of interest shown in this inaugural competition,” Lee-Glauser said. “Faculty from Syracuse and Upstate had a very short timeline to formulate a collaborative proposal, and the response shows just how excited they were to have this chance to work with one another. I am so grateful to the Nappis for initiating and supporting this opportunity to drive these intellectual partnerships.”

The judging panel for the competition included Sam and Carol Nappi; Lee-Glauser; Amberg; Marc Viggiano, CEO and founder, Niteopark LLC; and Albert Di Rienzo, president, CEO, and founder, Radicle Innovation LLC.

Emcee for the event was David Pluff, a senior vice president with Morgan Stanley and an executive member of the Upstate Foundation’s board of directors.

Caption: Carol, left, and Sam Nappi, right, with Gina Lee-Glauser, vice president for research at Syracuse University, and David Amberg, vice president for research at Upstate Medical University, at Friday's Driving Inspiration and Innovation through Collaboration Research Competition