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Meet our 2018 AGA Research Scholar Award Recipients

The six investigators awarded AGA’s flagship research grant are working on impressive research projects that address important unmet needs for GI patients. 

In 2018, the AGA Research Foundation was proud to provide more than $2 million in research funding to 41 investigators. See the full list of awardees.

AGA’s flagship award, the AGA Research Scholar Award, was given to five exceptional early career investigators who represent the future of GI research. In addition, one researcher was awarded the AGA-Takeda Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in IBD. Read about the 2018 awardees’ research projects below.


Sarah Andres, PhD

Sarah Andres, PhD

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Project title: The mRNA binding protein IMP1 regulates intestinal epithelial exosome biology during homeostasis and metastasis

Dr. Andres will use this award to delve more deeply into understanding how RNA binding proteins regulate exosomes within the intestinal and colonic epithelium and how this plays a part in health and disease. RNA binding proteins provide an exquisite layer of biological regulation to gene expression and downstream cellular processes, which is only beginning to be appreciated. Dr. Andres’s long-term hope is that her work will improve the diagnosis, treatment and ultimately survival of patients with colon cancer. 

Swathi Eluri, MD, MSCR

Swathi Eluri, MD, MSCR

University North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Project title: Improving Barrett’s esophagus screening practices in primary care

Dr. Eluri’s AGA-funded project will gather data to develop and test a multi-level screening intervention for Barrett’s esophagus to be implemented in primary care. The ultimate goal of her work is to improve esophageal adenocarcinoma detection. Given our highly effective endoscopic therapies for early neoplasia in Barrett’s esophagus, early detection has the potential to yield substantial benefits for patients. 

Jill Hoffman, PhD

Jill Hoffman, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles

AGA-Takeda Pharmaceuticals Research Scholar Award in IBD

Project title: Characterization of CRHR2-mediated enteric glial cell function during colitis

Dr. Hoffman will use her AGA-Takeda funding to define a role for corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) signaling in enteric glial cell function, and determine CRHR2-dependent crosstalk between enteric glial cells and the intestinal epithelium during inflammation. Through research aiming to understand the basic mechanisms of cell-to-cell signaling during intestinal inflammation, Dr. Hoffman hopes to determine how to harness these pathways to limit inflammation and promote repair in patients with IBD.

 Won Jae Huh, MD, PhD

Won Jae Huh, MD, PhD

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN

Project title: EGF receptor and notch signaling in the pathogenesis of Ménétrier’s disease

Dr. Huh is working to improve the treatment of individuals with Ménétrier’s disease, a rare acquired premalignant disorder characterized by giant gastric rugal folds, by targeting both EGFR and Notch signaling pathways. 

Sumera Rizvi, MD

Sumera Ilyas, MD

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

Project title: Necrosis enhances tumor immunogenicity and augments cholangiocarcinoma tumor suppression in combination with PD-L1 blockade

Dr. Ilyas’s research is focused on elucidating immunogenic cell death mechanisms and exploring novel, immune-mediated therapeutic approaches in cholangiocarcinoma. This work has the potential to open novel therapeutic avenues for treatment of cholangiocarcinoma, which will ultimately improve the outcomes of patients with this devastating malignancy. 

Niels Vande Casteele, PhD

Niels Vande Casteele, PhD

University of California, San Diego

Project title: Identifying optimal thresholds & personalized dosing regimens of infliximab to maximize endoscopic remission rates in patients with ulcerative colitis

Dr. Vande Casteele’s research project is all about determining the right drug for the right patient at the right time using the right dose. By studying optimal thresholds and personalized dosing regimens of infliximab, Dr. Vande Casteele will build the basis for exposure-based dosing regimens that can be applied to other anti-TNF antibodies and antibodies with other targets used in the treatment of patients with IBD, as well as other chronic inflammatory diseases and/or oncology. Dr. Vande Casteele’s goal is for his work to have a direct impact on patients by allowing us to achieve better treatment outcomes with minimal side-effects. 

View the 2019 AGA research funding opportunities. Please review the deadlines as application deadlines have shifted. Research Scholar Award applications open Sept. 7, 2018.

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