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The lone scientist problem, and how two Carolina professors are addressing it

Robert Hummer - UNC, talks to course participants
Robert Hummer, a Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of Sociology and fellow at the Carolina Population Center, teaches a course on how to integrate the social and biological sciences on November 12, 2018, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
(Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Two Carolina professors are combining their distinct areas of expertise to help students address some of the toughest health issues of our time.

Good science is a team sport — especially when it comes to addressing health disparities.

That's the foundation of a new UNC-Chapel Hill research training program that challenges students to explore both the biological and social factors that influence health in the United States.

Led by sociologist Robert Hummer and epidemiologist Allison Aiello, the Biosocial Training Program funds seven graduate and post-doctoral students this year as they study some of the most pressing health issues of our time. The program, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is housed in the Carolina Population Center.

"This kind of work can't just be done by a single person," Hummer said. "People can't sit under trees and think big thoughts and produce great science. That's not how it works anymore. You have to have training across disciplines."

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Breakthrough peanut allergy study conducted at the CTRC

Successful Peanut Allergy Clinical Trial Results Published in NEJM

The treatment, AR101 from Aimmune Therapeutics, was based on research conducted in the lab of Wesley Burks, MD. It significantly increased the amount of peanut protein tolerated. UNC's Edwin Kim, MD, MS, was PI at the UNC site of this international trial.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Aimmune Therapeutics, Inc., a California-based biopharmaceutical company developing treatments for potentially life-threatening food allergies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine its full results of the landmark phase 3 PALISADE clinical trial of AR101, an investigational biologic oral immunotherapy for desensitization of patients with peanut allergy. PALISADE is the largest and first successful phase 3 peanut allergy immunotherapy trial to date.

A. Wesley Burks, MD
A. Wesley Burks, MD

"This paper recognizes the rigor, scale and importance of the PALISADE trial, which will inform ongoing research in food allergy and could change practice for peanut allergy," said senior author A. Wesley Burks, MD, Executive Dean and Curnen Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and member of the Aimmune Scientific Advisory Board. "Peanut allergy demands lifelong vigilance to avoid accidental exposures, and the unpredictable severity of reactions that do occur can take a toll on children and families. By significantly reducing the frequency and severity of allergic reactions to peanut, AR101 could provide reassurance and make a meaningful, beneficial impact on people's daily lives."

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TraCS partner RTI leads study to advance research through free and expanded newborn screening

Cynthia M. Powell, MD, professor of pediatrics and genetics in the UNC School of Medicine, is Early Check Lead Investigator for the team from UNC.

“Cynthia
Cynthia M. Powell, MD

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC -- Early Check, a new research study, led by RTI International and a group of distinguished partners, is now available for newborn babies in North Carolina. Early Check is a free screening study designed to identify children with rare health conditions before symptoms appear and will study the benefits of early treatments. New and expectant mothers may enroll in the program online from their second trimester until 4 weeks after their child's birth.

"We are enrolling participants now and hope to offer every baby born in North Carolina the opportunity to participate in this unique study," said Don Bailey, PhD, Distinguished Fellow at RTI International and principal investigator for Early Check.

Currently, the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health performs newborn screening for all babies born in the state. Early Check staff located in the NC state Lab will perform the additional Early Check screenings. "The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health is excited to be advancing the science of public health through our partnership with RTI," said Scott J. Zimmerman, DrPH, MPH, director of the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health.

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Diabetes Experts Release New Guidelines on Managing Hyperglycemia in Type 2 Diabetes

“John
John Buse, MD, PhD

New recommendations, co-written by UNC School of Medicine's John Buse, MD, PhD, cover the type of drugs patients should be prescribed and how providers can better help patients manage their health.

BERLIN – The European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) have produced an updated consensus statement on how to manage hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) in patients with type 2 diabetes. The consensus paper is being published in the EASD's journal, Diabetologia, and the ADA's journal, Diabetes Care. This publication coincides with the EASD annual meeting in Berlin, Germany.

The new recommendations from an expert panel of EASD and ADA members follow a review of the latest evidence — including a range of recent trials of drug and lifestyle intervention — and update the last recommendations issued in 2015.

UNC School of Medicine's John Buse, MD, PhD, senior author of the paper and co-chair of the ADA consensus statement writing group, says there are two key changes in the updated recommendations.

"We have suggested changing the focus of why drugs are prescribed to patients. Instead of primarily focusing on lowering blood sugar, we now suggest physicians primarily focus on treatment to prevent heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease," said Buse, director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center and director of the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute.

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