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MDI Biological Laboratory scientist Vicki P. Losick, Ph.D., recognized as Outstanding Investigator

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Credit: MDI Biological Laboratory

BAR HARBOR, MAINE — Vicki P. Losick, Ph.D., of the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, has been recognized as an "outstanding investigator" by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for her research on wound healing. The designation carries a grant award in the amount of about $348,000 per year for five years, or a total of about $1.7 million.

The grant will support Losick's research on the regulation of polyploidization in wound repair. Polyploidization is a mechanism that supports cell enlargement by duplicating chromosome number.

A key step in healing is the replacement of cells that have been lost or damaged by injury or disease. Previously, the body was thought to achieve this primarily through cell division, or increasing the number of cells. However, Losick has identified polyploidy, or cell enlargement, as a common element in the body's healing arsenal, and has demonstrated the benefits of this alternative repair strategy.

Losick's research has implications beyond wound healing, however, since polyploid cell growth is also associated with cancer and other degenerative diseases, including heart and liver diseases. Her goal is to identify the factors that regulate the creation of these extra-large cells in order to promote a beneficial response and to limit the degenerative consequences.

Her research is conducted in the fruit fly, Drosophila, one of the diverse animal models used to study genetic regulation of tissue repair, regeneration and aging at the MDI Biological Laboratory.

"Losick has made an important contribution to biomedical science in the discovery polyploidy as an alternative wound healing strategy," said Kevin Strange, Ph.D., president of the MDI Biological Laboratory. "Her research exemplifies the institution's mission of developing therapies that draw on the body's innate ability to heal. We are delighted the NIH has recognized her work with this prestigious award."

The Outstanding Investigator Award for Early Stage Investigators, which was introduced last year, is an extension of the NIH's prestigious MIRA (Maximizing Investigators' Research Award, or R35) program, whose goal is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of science funding by supporting an investigator's overall program of research through a single unified grant rather than through multiple, smaller grants.

"The premise of the MIRA award is to allow researchers to focus on the vision and impact of their research programs," Losick said. "Since the award is not tied to a specific set of experiments, the funding stability it offers will allow my group the freedom to go in new directions and to tackle ambitious problems as they arise."

"It's a great opportunity to have received this mechanism of support," she continued. "It will allow me to focus on mentoring my trainees and performing research that could one day unlock the key to polyploidy's role in health and disease."

The award is supported by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus S. King Jr. (I-ME), who have been advocates of NIH-funded research support as a means of maintaining the nation's position as global leader in biomedical research, and of saving lives and reducing health care costs in Maine and throughout the country.

"The MDI Biological Laboratory is on the cutting edge of scientific research, and Maine is fortunate to have dedicated scientists like Dr. Losick working to advance modern medicine right here in our home state," the senators said in a joint statement. "This grant funding, coupled with Dr. Losick's outstanding work, will ensure the MDI Biological Laboratory can continue its research into healing serious wounds that impact countless Americans and their families across our country."

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Losick joined the MDI Biological Laboratory in January of 2016. The MIRA grant is based on research she conducted under Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) funding from the NIH, which is designed to help early-stage scientists transition to competitive grant support from the NIH and other public and private organizations.

About the MDI Biological Laboratory

Our scientists are pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine focused on drugs that activate our natural ability to heal, and that slow age-related degenerative changes. Our unique approach has identified new drugs with the potential to treat major diseases, demonstrating that regeneration could be as simple as taking a pill. As innovators and entrepreneurs, we also teach what we know. Our Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation prepares students for 21st century careers and equips entrepreneurs with the skills and resources to turn great ideas into successful products. For more information, please visit mdibl.org.

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