Foundation Identifies Four New Clinical Innovation Fund Recipients

Published July 1, 2018 in Foundation

The Mid-America Transplant Foundation’s Board of Directors awarded more than $850,000 in May to four research projects seeking to improve the lifesaving impact of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. The funding is provided through the Clinical Innovation Fund, which supports innovative research addressing clinical issues in transplantation.

Kayla, lung recipient

Research supported by the Clinical Innovation Fund will help patients like Kayla Sanders, who received a lifesaving lung transplant in 2014.

The awardee’s research is expected to impact transplantation within 3-5 years. The topics include:

  • Drs. Ajay Jain and Chintalapati Varma of Saint Louis University are seeking to identify a biomarker indicating liver transplant rejection in a two-year study. Inspired by reducing the need for invasive liver biopsies in pediatric patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, the team is seeking a blood test to make the same rejection determination.
  • Dr. Tarek Alhamad of Washington University in St. Louis and Drs. Krista Lentine and Mark Schnitzler of Saint Louis University  are conducting a three-year, collaborative study related to Hepatitis C and donation. The study will begin with an analysis of the virus and its impact on donation nationwide. Additionally, researchers will evaluate the public’s perspective on receiving a Hepatitis C-positive organ as a Hepatitis C-negative recipient. It will conclude with a cost-benefit analysis of transplanting Hepatitis C-positive organs to Hepatitis C-negative recipients. The study could reduce the waiting list by making more organs available for transplant.
  • Drs. Augustine Hong, Grace Paley, George Harocopos, Andrew Haung, and Anthony Lubniewski of Washington University in St. Louis are examining corneas with infiltrates, opaque spots on the cornea, to determine the cause of the opacity. The team will then determine if Optisol – an antibiotic solution used in cornea transplant -- eliminates all pathogens that grow on the cornea. The study will ultimately determine what causes infiltrates and explore if the current antibiotic solution is adequate.
  • Dr. Derek Byers is leading a team at Washington University in St. Louis in a three-year study to examine the effect of a viral infection in donor lungs on the recipient of the same lungs. This first-of-its-kind study is expected to establish new standards for virus screening of donors, ultimately improving lung transplant outcomes. Currently, there is no policy by the United Network for Organ Sharing on testing for viral infections in lung donors.

“The Clinical Innovation Fund has become a hallmark of our Foundation. This continued commitment to investing in clinical research will impact the lives of those waiting nationwide for a lifesaving transplant,” said Dr. Gary F. Marklin, Chief Medical Officer at Mid-America Transplant. “The projects that received funding are exceptional, and the researchers have a great opportunity to leave a lasting mark on countless transplant patients and their families.”

Clinical research eligible for the Clinical Innovation Fund address the following: reduce the need for organ and tissue transplantation; increase the availability of organs and tissue for transplantation; and achieve better health and financial outcomes for transplant recipients. The Mid-America Transplant Foundation is committed to furthering the sciences aiming to improve organ and tissue transplantation.

“The Clinical Innovation Fund continues to support clinical researchers in our service area investigate new and exciting opportunities to save and heal lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” said Kevin Lee, Executive Director of the Mid-America Transplant Foundation. “We’re excited to see the development of this projects and their impact on transplant patients nationwide.”

The Foundation has awarded three cycles of funding through the Clinical Innovation Fund. Since its inception in 2016, the Fund has issued nearly $2 million to nine research projects.

About Mid-America Transplant Foundation
In support of Mid-America Transplant, the Foundation seeks to reduce the need for organ and tissue transplantation; increase the availability of organs and tissues for those who need them; and to improve the lives of recipients and donor families. It strives to save and heal lives in the communities we serve through programs and partnerships that impact organ and tissue donation. For more information, visit

About Mid-America Transplant
Mid-America Transplant enables adults and children to receive lifesaving gifts through organ and tissue donations. For more than 40 years, it has facilitated and coordinated organ and tissue donation, and now serves 84 counties covering eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and northeast Arkansas that together are home to 4.7 million people. It saves lives by providing expert and compassionate care for organ and tissue donors, recipients and families, and transforms the clinical processes required to recover and transplant organs and tissues. Mid-America Transplant was the first such organization in the U.S. to use an in-house operating room for organ recovery and pioneered innovative models of increasing donor registry enrollment to provide more organs and tissues to those in need. It is federally designated as one of 58 such organizations in the U.S., and is the first organ procurement organization to be recognized as a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for Performance Excellence.