NHF Announces Innovative Investigator Award Recipients

Award supports ongoing research into factor delivery and development of a method to determine factor activity in the clinic

The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) is proud to announce the first recipients of the NHF Innovative Investigator Award. These grants, which were inaugurated in September 2017, are part of NHF’s increased commitment to funding critical research in support of the bleeding disorders community. The award supports multidisciplinary team members within the federally funded hemophilia treatment center (HTC) network who are working on projects that promote the development of novel technologies or therapies that advance the field of bleeding disorders research.

The 2017 recipients are Shannon Meeks, MD, associate professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and Jill M. Johnsen, MD, associate member of Bloodworks Northwest Research Institute and associate professor in the Division of Hematology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Meeks’ project seeks to further develop a new delivery system for factor VIII (FVIII) for people with hemophilia A with inhibitors. The FVIII would be contained in a “carrier vehicle” called a polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM) capsule. The surface of the PEM capsule contains fibrinogen—a protein essential for forming blood clots—which binds to platelets when injected. When the platelets are activated at the site of an injury, they contract, bursting the capsule and releasing the FVIII inside. The FVIII is protected by the polymer shell. The PEM capsule has been shown to work in vitro—outside a living organism. Meeks plans to move testing to mouse models with the support of the award.

Johnsen’s project focuses on developing point-of-care testing for hemophilia. Currently, factor level testing can be performed only in specialty labs, which, Johnsen posits, is an obstacle to optimal treatment of patients with hemophilia. She is developing new testing methods for hemophilia A and B. Her goal is to develop a handheld device that patients or healthcare providers could use to obtain a real-time factor activity level to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of bleeding episodes.

“We’re excited to be able to support Drs. Meeks and Johnsen at this important stage in their research,” says Michelle Witkop, DNP, head of research for NHF. “NHF’s Innovative Investigator Awards are part of NHF’s commitment to researchers who are on the forefront of breakthrough research for bleeding disorders.”

Learn more about the NHF Innovative Investigator Award.