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Johns Hopkins Pediatrician Wins NIH Transformative Research Award - 10/06/2014

Johns Hopkins Pediatrician Wins NIH Transformative Research Award

Release Date: October 6, 2014
Sanjay Jain, M.D.
Sanjay Jain, M.D.
Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center infectious disease specialist Sanjay Jain, M.D., has earned a Transformative Research Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his ongoing work to design a new noninvasive imaging method that can rapidly identify a wide variety of bacterial infections and monitor their response to treatment in real time.

The award comes with more than $2.2 million in funding over five years and is among several special NIH awards that support exceptionally innovative research with the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms. Jain is conducting the research with colleagues Martin Pomper, M.D., Ph.D., Edward Weinstein, M.D., Ph.D., Ronnie Mease, Ph.D., and Catherine Foss, Ph.D., all from Johns Hopkins.  

All current imaging methods use inflammation as a surrogate to diagnose and monitor infections. However, measuring inflammation — the body’s response to infection — is not specific and can be altered in patients with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer or HIV/AIDS. Jain’s innovative imaging method is based on techniques that provide real-time tracking of the actual bacteria instead of the inflammation they cause. This approach can not only help diagnose and monitor infections, but also help unravel the basic mechanisms of disease and evaluate the effect of drug therapy. These methods, Jain and colleagues say, could help speed up translation of therapies from lab to clinic and allow for individualized treatment.

“Current tools to diagnose and monitor infections have several limitations,” Jain says. “They are dependent upon sampling suspected sites of infection and then performing complicated lab analyses. This approach is invasive, often dangerous, time-consuming, and subject to incorrect sampling and contamination.”

Noninvasive imaging is becoming a powerful tool for the early diagnosis and monitoring of various diseases.

“The next generation of molecular imaging promises unparalleled opportunities for visualizing and tracking infections,” Jain says.

The new imaging technique can also help tailor therapies and reduce unnecessary or misguided use of antibiotics by determining quickly which infections respond to a given treatment.

The model, Jain adds, could go a long way toward curbing antibiotic misuse by providing rapid diagnostic tools that take the guesswork out of prescribing the most effective therapy.

The Johns Hopkins team involved in current research is comprised of lab scientists and clinicians from radiology, medicine and infectious disease.

“Bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and expertise can spark discovery and speed up innovation,” says Jain.

Jain, one of the 2014 NIH Transformative Research Award recipients, is already known for his design of imaging techniques to monitor in real time the behavior of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), in test animals. Use of this technology is expected to shed light on how TB evades drugs and hides out in the body for decades, contributing to the disease’s virulence and persistence in humans. Jain received NIH’s New Innovator Award in 2009 for this research.

Jain received his medical degree from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. He trained in pediatrics at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and at Tufts University School of Medicine. He was a clinical fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before joining its faculty. An associate professor in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Jain directs the Center for Infection and Inflammation Imaging Research at Johns Hopkins and is also a member of the Center for Tuberculosis Research Laboratory.

For the Media


Ekaterina Pesheva
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Helen Jones
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