The University of Arizona Health Sciences Career Development Awards program recently selected Kellen Chen, PhD, an assistant research professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, as one of its five 2023 recipients.
“I feel exceptionally honored and excited to receive this award,” said Dr. Chen. “This award allows me to continue my research goals of investigating the development of fibrosis across various organ systems.”
CDA scholars must complete an independent research project, which is expected to generate sufficient pilot findings to enable the submission of an NIH K-series or R01 grant (or equivalent) by the second year of the program. Each scholar also must choose a lead mentor, or mentors if the project is multidisciplinary.
Dr. Chen’s research investigates how biomedical implants, such as silicone breast implants or pacemakers, could trigger a cellular foreign body response or FBR, resulting in the formation of a fibrotic capsule around the implant that reduces its function and may even require additional surgery.
“I propose to collect samples from severe and benign FBR and look at cellular gene profiles using single cell RNA sequencing to identify potential pathways to target,” Dr. Chen said. “I will then culture these human cells in a human-like 3D tissue engineered scaffold to test the ability of potential therapeutics to reduce the fibrosis.”
Dr. Chen’s mentor, Geoffrey C. Gurtner, MD, FACS, professor and chair of the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine – Tucson, said they first met at a conference in Ireland. “Kellen was completing a very fundamental and basic PhD thesis and wanted to explore more translational research. I invited him to join my lab at Stanford,” said Dr. Gurtner. “I was delighted when he later accepted my offer to move to Tucson and help me run my lab. He is clever, hardworking and able to initiate real collaborations. He is great teacher and role model.”
Dr. Chen said he is grateful for the support he has received from Dr. Gurtner. “Dr. Gurtner's mentorship and guidance over the past few years have really helped me develop as a biomedical engineer that performs clinically and translationally relevant research,” said Dr. Chen. “We have a great partnership, and I continue to value his guidance immensely.”
The CDA program was established by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences in 2014 to provide research training and funding for early-career faculty members and foster academic careers in clinical and translational research. Each year, the recipients of the two-year award receive 75% protected time for research, plus salary support and funding for research-related activities and travel.
Other recipients of the 2023 CDA are:
- Lauren Benton, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the College of Medicine – Tucson
- Hongxu Ding, PhD, assistant professor of translational pharmacogenomics at the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy
- Tobias Jakobi, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Medicine – Phoenix
- Bridget Murphy, DBH, MEd, assistant research professor of health promotion sciences at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health