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Hood Foundation grants support research to improve child health

Trudy Morrison, PhD, and Read Pukkila-Worley, MD, awarded 2015 Hood Foundation grants totaling $600,000

In December 2015, the Charles H. Hood Foundation awarded grants to two UMass Medical School scientists to further their research aimed at improving child health. Microbiologist Trudy Morrison, PhD, received a two-year, $450,000 Major Grant Award to Advance Child Health for her project, “Protection of Neonates from Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection.” Immunologist Read Pukkila-Worley, MD, received a two-year, $150,000 Child Health Research Award for his project, “Homeostatic Regulation of Innate Immune Activation in Intestinal Epithelial Cells.”

The purpose of the Hood Foundation’s Major Grants Initiative to Advance Child Health is to support outstanding investigators conducting high-risk, innovative translational or clinical research that will have an impact on improving clinical outcomes, health care delivery or reducing future health care expenditures.

“Respiratory syncytial virus—RSV—is the primary viral cause of acute respiratory illness and hospitalization of infants worldwide, but no licensed vaccine exists. My laboratory has been developing a novel, uniquely effective RSV vaccine candidate,” said Dr. Morrison, professor of microbiology & physiological systems. “The support from the Hood Foundation will help move this candidate significantly closer to human trials. In an animal model, the award will allow us to test the idea that newborns can be protected from RSV infections through the passive transfer of protective maternal antibodies in utero to the fetus after maternal immunization with our vaccine candidate.”

The Child Health Research Award received by Dr. Pukkila-Worley, assistant professor of medicine, is intended to support newly independent faculty, provide the opportunity to demonstrate creativity and assist in the transition to other sources of research funding.

“We are honored to receive support from the Hood Foundation, which will help fund our work to characterize evolutionarily conserved principles of innate immune activation and regulation in intestinal epithelial cells,” said Pukkila-Worley. “The long-term goal of this research is to facilitate the development of new therapies for inflammatory bowel disease and other disorders of the intestine.”

The Charles H. Hood Foundation was incorporated in 1942 to improve the health and quality of life for children through grant support of New England-based pediatric researchers. Its grants are administered by Health Resources in Action, whose Community Health and Medical Foundation divisions develop programs that advance public health and medical research.

UMass Medical School has benefited from a long history of support from the Hood Foundation, with numerous faculty members the beneficiaries of previous years’ Child Research Awards and of postdoctoral fellowships and other funding from the foundation. 

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