“The best lesson of COVID-19 may be the impact of its urgency on research. If we could mobilize this type of urgency for some other diseases, we’d be able to accelerate the pace of developing life-saving therapies and other discoveries. The impact of COVID-19 on research has been fascinating. It really brought the world’s attention back to our work. So many take for granted how important research is for both medicine and humanity.” - Vibha Lama, MD, MS. Learn more about Dr. Lama.
Meet Our Vice Chair for Basic & Translational Research
Slowing Down & Accelerating Research
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, all of our research labs closed except for very essential activities. They started slowly ramping back up in June 2020 with new protocols in place. While these efforts have been successful at safely getting our teams back to their research, it has been a setback for many. On the other end of the spectrum, it also inspired many investigators to pursue new ideas to address COVID-19 and conduct research work in a shorter amount of time.
Addressing the Impact of COVID-19
In addition to the COVID-19 protocols put in place, research work was also affected by the impact COVID-19 had on families. There were many parents who had to stay at home to help their children with remote school or care for a loved one who was ill. One of our goals is to look at how we can help our investigators gain back some of the time and productivity they lost during the pandemic.
Building Collaborative Teams
Another goal for this year is to build more collaborative research teams. At Michigan Medicine, we have so many researchers who are doing cutting-edge work in different areas who may not know about each other’s work. We would like to encourage more of these individuals to get team funding and work collectively on projects to promote more impactful research.
One avenue for researchers to interact and see what others are working on is the Department of Internal Medicine Annual Research Symposium. We held a successful virtual symposium in May 2021, with a record number of abstract submissions and thematic mini-symposia featuring researchers across divisions and research arenas.
In 2021, we introduced a new thematic multi-speaker format research conference, Internal Medicine Research Rounds, which is held quarterly. This disease-based discovery science forum will allow us to populate ideas across divisions, increase interaction among investigators, and hopefully lead to new collaborations across basic science departments.
In the News
In Lupus, 'Normal-Appearing' Skin Is Not Normal
J. Michelle Kahlenberg, MD, PhD and team find that nonlesional lupus skin contributes to inflammatory education of myeloid cells and primes for cutaneous inflammation. Read more.
Microneedle Approach to Address Peanut Allergy Shows Promise in Mice
Jessica O’Konek, PhD; James Baker, MD; and team find that treating peanut allergy with microneedles could significantly improve desensitization by directly targeting the allergen to the skin. Read more.
Fighting COVID-19 with Milk?
Jonathan Sexton, PhD and team investigate the antiviral properties of cow milk protein against variants of SARS-CoV-2. Read more.
Disruption in Lung Cell Repair May Underlie Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Diseases
Christopher Ting, MD; Rachel Zemans, MD; and their team's research lay the groundwork for the development of new therapies to improve survival and prevent chronic lung disease in COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome. Read more.