December 01, 2007

Case Western Reserve University cardiologist awarded National Institutes of Health MERIT award

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Based on a decade of discovery and success in the field of inflammation and vascular injury, the research work of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Professor Daniel Simon has been rewarded with a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Simon, Herman Hellerstein Professor of Medicine and chief of cardiovascular medicine at the School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, was recently selected to receive the Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award from the NHLBI. The support grant funding is initially for a five-year period but may be extended to 10 years. Its initial value is $1.9 million for the first five years, with a possible total value of $3.86 million over the full 10 years.

Simon is the first Case Western Reserve researcher to receive a MERIT Award since Claire Doerschuk in 2002. Between four to seven MERIT Awards are given out each year.

"The MERIT Award is truly a great honor to receive because it is an uncommon award," said Simon. "It's really a mechanism to reward a career's worth of work; one that the NHLBI views as important to discovery, innovation and research to the Institute."

Regarded as a leading cardiologist and researcher, Simon came to Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in 2006 from Boston, where he was an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the interventional cardiology program at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

To be eligible for the award, nominees must have previously secured 10 consecutive years of NIH funding for renewal investigator-initiated research program grants (R01). After new and competing R01 applications are reviewed in the usual manner, NHLBI staff and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Advisory Council (NHLBAC) consider those applications that meet the criteria for a MERIT Award.

The principal feature of the MERIT Award is the opportunity to obtain up to 10 years of research support in two segments and thereby relieve awardees of the need to prepare frequent renewal applications.

Over the years, Simon's lab has focused on the role of inflammation in vascular injury and repair, providing insight into the blood vessel's response to impairment and rehabilitation. Among several observations and discoveries, his group was the first to discover the importance of white blood cell inflammation in regards to how blood vessels respond from injury and disease.

Additionally, he was a pioneer in recognizing that the vessel wall elicits an inflammatory response to mechanical injury, including balloon angioplasty and stenting.

Simon was recommended and selected for a MERIT Award for his work entitled "Inflammation in Vascular Injury and Repair." The focus of the study hypothesizes the paradigm that leukocyte (white blood cells) recruitment in inflammation is largely platelet-dependent, even in diseases thought to be leukocyte-endothelial cell dependent.

Simon and his research colleagues have focused on restenosis after angioplasty and vasculitis, a group of diseases featuring inflammation of the wall of blood vessels including veins, arteries and capillaries due to leukocyte migration and resultant damage, to test this hypothesis, but are pursing observations in other important vascular diseases, including glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation) and pulmonary hypertension.

Simon is also currently involved in other studies that, while in their early stages, have the potential to have what he calls an "enormous impact" on the risk prediction of heart attack and stroke.

"Funding is critical--and the most delicate--to research," Simon said." To have the prospect of 10 years of funding is of enormous value. It will allow the lab to continue to focus on and accelerate improvements in patient care."

Simon also has played a leading role in clinical trials investigating distal embolic protection devices, brachytherapy, drug-eluting stents, photoangioplasty and various adjunctive anti-thrombotic and anti-platelet agents.

He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and completed his residency, cardiovascular fellowship and research and advanced interventional cardiology training at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Board-certified in medicine, cardiology and interventional cardiology, Simon was elected into the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 2002 and the Association of University Cardiologists in 2007. He is the director of the Ohio Cardiovascular Cell-based Therapy Consortium, dedicated to accelerating non-embryonic adult stem cell trials at multiple medical centers throughout Ohio for the treatment of heart and blood vessel disease. He serves on the editorial boards of Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.

Initiated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in l986, the MERIT Award has become a symbol of scientific achievement in the research community. According to the NIH, the award is "designed to provide long-term, stable support to investigators whose research competence, productivity and scientific contributions are distinctly superior and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner."

For more information, contact Jason Tirotta, 216-368-6890.

Posted by: Marsha Bragg, December 1, 2007 12:24 PM | News Topics: Administration, Appointments, Awards, Collaborations/Partnerships, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research, School of Medicine

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