Two AGNR faculty members awarded funds to co-lead research projects with UMB collaborators

Published 3/9/22 on the UMCP College of Agricultural & Natural Services

Two AGNR researchers focused on prevention of animal to human disease transmission, and management of air pollution for all citizens, but with a focus on disadvantaged youth, have been awarded significant funding from the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State (MPower), a formal collaboration of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) to further their work.

Andrew Broadbent, and James Archsmith, both assistant professors with the college are part of a select group of 17 projects chosen from a pool of 52 submissions by faculty peers from both UMB and UMCP. The selected teams capitalize on the research expertise of UMB and UMCP and showcase collaboration across multiple colleges and schools.

Broadbent received the maximum allowance of $250,000 with his proposal titled, “Development of Vaccines Against Emerging Avian Influenza Viruses for Use in Humans and Poultry: A One-Health Approach to Prevent Zoonotic Virus Spillover Events and Support Pandemic Preparedness,” a partnership with Lynda Coughlan, assistant professor with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, UMB.

Influenza viruses represent a future pandemic threat due to their circulation in multiple animal species (eg. chickens, pigs etc.), as well as humans,” said Broadbent. “Furthermore, reports of severe illness or death following human infection with avian influenza virus, or “bird flu”, have highlighted the importance of developing new vaccines against these emerging viruses. To address this, we are taking a “One Health” approach where we develop a single vaccine that can be used in both birds and people to protect and prevent the spillover of bird flu from poultry into the human population.”

In this project, they will design new vaccines based on a non-replicating adenovirus platform, and test the ability of these vaccines to generate immune responses in mice and chickens. These results will provide proof-of-concept data to support the future advancement of vaccines against avian influenza virus for veterinary or human clinical applications.

Archsmith received $50,765 for his project titled, “Investigating Racial and Social Disparities in Health Outcomes Among Maryland Youth in Foster Care Exposed to Cross-State Air Pollution,” in collaboration with Roderick Rose, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

“Studies have shown that air pollution has wide-ranging, negative effects on respiratory health, behavior and performance, especially in the most vulnerable children such as those in the foster care system,” explained Archsmith. “State measures to reduce air pollution are not sufficient to control air quality, because many Marylanders reside downwind from high-emitting coal plants in five other states.”

This study will trace the direct line between out-of-state pollution and health impacts to children in Maryland. They will combine data on respiratory illnesses and behavioral health in foster care children collected by the MD state Medicaid system with emissions data and models of airflow and atmospheric chemistry.

This research will provide evidence-based accountability to help regulators at the state and federal level advocate for appropriate management of air pollution to protect all citizens. It will also help the Maryland Social Security Administration identify youth in foster care with the greatest need for health advocacy and preventive care in areas like asthma medication.

Funds awarded are part of a strategic investment in the future intended to kick start new research in critical areas of importance to the state and the nation. The six targeted research areas are: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Medicine; Cybersecurity and Homeland Security; Neuroscience and Aging; Pandemic Readiness, Resilience and Mitigation; Racial and Social Justice; and Violence and Crime Reduction.

“These seed grant awards highlight the outstanding interdisciplinary and high-impact research faculty in Baltimore and College Park are conducting to address the most complex challenges society is facing,” said Dr. Gregory F. Ball, vice president for research at UMB and UMCP. “My hope is that these grants strengthen current collaborations, promote new ones and lead to future funding opportunities to support innovative and transformative research.”