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Angel and Cocanougher receive R38 SCI-StARR grants

Friday, February 12, 2021
McGovern Davison Children's Health Center

Congratulations to Pediatrics Residents César Lopez Angel, MD, PhD and Ben Cocanougher, MD, who received R38 grants through the Duke SCI-StARR program and the Duke Office of Physician Scientist Development (OSPD). Angel will identify new correlates of protection to inform vaccine development and trials through optimizing tools for systems-level immune profiling and defining biomarkers that predict vaccine efficacy, and Cocanougher will identify the impact of the p-R96P variant on protein function of β-arrestin, thereby determining its role in sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

The R38 Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (SCI-StARR) grants provide a competitive training pathway that allows 18 months of protected research time in a 4-year residency. The program is currently open to residents from the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics and Surgery. The SCI-StARR program provides research mentoring, funding for research and travel expenses, and eligibility for a new NIH early career award (K38 Stimulating Access to Research in Residency Transition Scholar).

In their own words

César López Angel, MD, PhD
I am interested in sub-specializing in infectious diseases with a focus on vaccine development. I trained in medicine and immunology in the MD/PhD program at Stanford University, where I utilized high-throughput immune monitoring modalities, and a systems immunology analytical pipeline to characterize the effects of chronic infection and aging on immune homeostasis, vaccination, and immune signaling networks. My current work in collaboration with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, and under the mentorship of Dr. Georgia Tomaras, focuses on determining whether baseline or post-HIV vaccine immune composition, cellular function, or systemic cytokines affect risk of acquiring HIV, and whether preexisting CMV immunity modifies the relative risk of HIV acquisition.

Ben Cocanougher, MD
Healthy families are the foundation of a healthy society. I chose pediatrics because I enjoy taking care of children, and I believe that I can make a difference in improving the way that we diagnose and treat children with complex medical conditions. During my pediatrics training, I am fortunate to work with my fellow residents to contribute broadly to the health of many families.

The area where I feel I can make the most impact in the long term is through research to improve our understanding of genetic conditions, especially those that affect the brain and muscles. The brain is endlessly fascinating. Using the power of genetics and genomics to understand and treat genetic neurological disorders is my passion. I plan to combine my background in medicine and research to better understand disorders of childhood and develop new therapies.  

When I am allowed outside of the hospital, I enjoy jogging my infant daughter to sleep in her stroller, trying out hiking trails with my wife, and learning bluegrass tunes on the mandolin.