UTMB Researcher Awarded NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award

A project by University of Texas Medical Branch scientists designed to test the effects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on the brain is being recognized by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Chien-Te Kent Tseng, professor of Microbiology and Immunology and a member of the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases at UTMB, is amongst the 106 awardees announced today by the NIH.

Tseng’s project proposes to test the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the brain. Researchers will develop multiple cell-type specific mouse models that express the SARS-CoV-2 receptor in a cell-type specific manner. With a variety of molecular, biochemical, histological and neuroscience approaches, Dr. Tseng is hoping to test the brain tropism of SARS-CoV-2 in depth and the effects of that on the central regulation of respiration.

“The project will also test whether brain infection alone can cause disease in animal models and determine the effect of infection on respiration control by the brain,” said Tseng. “This proposal will have a transformative impact on the current understanding of COVID- 19 and will uncover important therapeutic targets.”

Part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, the Director’s Transformative Research Award promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams of investigators who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.

The High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program is part of the NIH Common Fund, which oversees programs that pursue major opportunities and gaps throughout the research enterprise that are of great importance to NIH and require collaboration across the agency to succeed. Read more about this year’s awardees at https://commonfund.nih.gov/highrisk