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Chambers receives 2018 Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award

Friday, April 5, 2019
Eileen Tsai Chambers, MD

Eileen Tsai Chambers, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics and surgery in the Duke University School of Medicine, is a recipient of a 2018 Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award.  This prestigious award provides funding for cutting-edge biomedical research which  directly benefits children of the United States. Chambers studies antibody-mediated rejection following solid organ transplantation in children and is one of only 12 researchers recognized nationwide this year as a Hartwell Investigator by The Hartwell Foundation. She will receive $100,000 in direct costs for three years for her proposal entitled Acoustic Device to Prevent Antibody-Mediated Organ Transplant Failure.

Antibody-mediated rejection is the leading cause of organ transplant failure for children, affecting 50% of all transplanted children by 10 years after transplantation in the U.S. The majority of transplanted children will need multiple invasive transplant surgeries during their lifetime, resulting in frequent hospitalizations and decreased quality of life. Even more distressing is that most children needing transplantation, with the exception of those with end-stage kidney disease who can receive dialysis, have no bridging modality to transplantation, which can result in imminent mortality. Transplanted children who develop antibody-mediated rejection have more difficulty obtaining another organ and up to 80% mortality within one year of initial diagnosis of rejection. With support from the Hartwell Award, Chambers will seek to develop a new and effective treatment for antibody-mediated organ transplant rejection in children.

Specifically, her goal is to develop a novel acoustic fluid-based apheresis device that provides targeted donor-specific antibody removal while preserving antibodies that fight infection. Importantly, the unique trapping method for targeted antibody removal can be applied to other childhood antibody-mediated diseases such as autoimmune disease, one of the top ten causes of pediatric death.

“If successful, Eileen’s research has the potential to provide life-saving therapy to hundreds of thousands of children and improve the quality of life for families impacted by antibody-mediated diseases in the U.S.,” said Ann M. Reed, MD, Samuel L. Katz Professor of Pediatrics, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Duke Children’s.

Each year The Hartwell Foundation invites a limited number of leading educational and research institutions in the United States to carry out an internal competition to nominate candidates from their faculty who meet the award’s criteria. In 2018, 17 institutions were invited to participate. Based on the nominees submitted, the Foundation selected the top 12 researchers to receive a Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award.

In selecting awardees, the Foundation takes into account the compelling and transformative nature of the proposed innovation, the extent to which a strategic or translational approach might accelerate the clinical application of research results to benefit children of the United States, the extent of collaboration in the proposed research, the institutional commitment to provide encouragement and technical support to the investigator, and the extent to which funding the investigator will make a difference.

Chambers will be formally introduced as a Hartwell Investigator at the Hartwell Annual Meeting Biomedical Research, September 22-25 in Dallas.

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