Research Awards Update: 15 Projects Initiated in the First Six Months of 2021


Key Points

  • The Foundation’s Research Awards Program has launched or funded 15 new studies through the first half of 2021.
  • These projects include 10 preclinical laboratory studies and 5 clinical trials.
  • Learn more about our funded projects and how to apply for a research award.

stock microscope lab researchThe Foundation’s Research Awards Program has launched or funded 15 new studies through the first half of 2021. These projects include 10 preclinical and 5 clinical studies. Each is listed below by program track.

“After conducting extensive timeline analyses, we revamped several aspects of our award program,” said Matt Eames, PhD, the Foundation’s Director of Extramural Research. “Our internal processes have been streamlined to speed the time from submission to decision. Thanks to our generous donors and partner organizations, the award program has grown significantly over the past several years.”

These funded projects represent the breadth and depth of ongoing focused ultrasound research. Newly funded clinical projects are investigating novel or improved treatment options for patients with essential tremor, glioblastoma, diffuse midline glioma, pancreatic cancer, and painful bone metastases. Preclinical projects include further investigations for advancing mechanisms of action beyond ablation, such as histotripsy for the brain, blood-brain barrier (BBB) opening, immunotherapy, and neuromodulation. Researchers also continue to improve focused ultrasound ablation and visualization techniques to expanding its reach in the brain and central nervous system.

Brain Clinical Research

Ultrasound-Enabled Detection of Circulating Tumor Biomarkers for Glioblastoma led by Adam Sonabend, MD, at Northwestern University. (Clinical)
This project is designed to determine whether pulsed therapeutic ultrasound can increase circulating brain tumor biomarkers to enhance the efficacy of liquid biopsy.

Clinical investigation of Farydak (panobinostat) for the Treatment of Pediatric Diffuse Midline Glioma led by Stergios Zacharoulis, MD, at Columbia University. (Clinical)
This project seeks to determine whether it is safe and feasible to open the BBB before chemotherapy infusion prior to biopsy or resection in patients with recurrent brain tumors. A secondary question is whether this process might also enhance treatment of the tumor.

Brain Preclinical

Microbubble-Enhanced Focused Ultrasound Treatments in the Brain: Impact of Bubble Distribution in a Pig Craniotomy Model led by Francesco Prada, MD, at Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to develop a more thorough understanding of the way that different microbubbles interact with focused ultrasound and how they behave based on how they are administered and where they are distributed in the brain.

Transcranial Histotripsy Application to Cadaveric Brain led by Zhen Xu, PhD, at the University of Michigan. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to determine the safety of brain histotripsy.

Focused Ultrasound BBB Opening to Halt Nigrostriatal Degeneration led by Jose Obeso, MD, PhD, at Centro Integral de Neurociencias HM CINAC. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to determine whether gene therapy can be delivered across the BBB in a preclinical model of Parkinson’s disease.

Brain Technical

Transcranial Magnetic Resonance–Guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery for Cingulotomy: A Cadaveric and Laboratory Feasibility Study led by Brian Dalm, MD, at Ohio State University. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to determine whether transcranial MR-guided focused ultrasound can create a clinically relevant thermal increase in the human cingulate cortex without appreciable heating of important surrounding structures.

Development of a Transcranial Sonication Efficiency Estimation Toolkit led by Dong-Guk Paeng, PhD, and Changzhu Jin, PhD, at Jeju National University. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to develop a computationally efficient tool to estimate treatment efficacy for transcranial focused ultrasound procedures. The newly developed, optimized, and validated Kranion model will estimate focal pressure and create a sonication efficiency map.

Symptom Mapping for Focused Ultrasound Thalamotomy Assessment and Planning led by Charles Guttmann, MD, at and Rees Cosgrove, MD, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Clinical)
In this project, the investigators will implement a published method for subthalamic segmentation to improve targeting in patients with essential tremor who are being treated with transcranial focused ultrasound.


Ultrasound-Guided Gene Delivery to Brain Tumors led by Beata Chertok, PhD, a visiting scholar in the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia and a Focused Ultrasound Foundation fellow. (Preclinical)
This study will use newly developed messenger RNA (mRNA) nanoparticles, mRNAresp, to facilitate transfection via an ultrasound-controlled gating mechanism. It will also assess the applicability of this approach for directing expression of mRNA-encoded antibody therapeutics to brain tumors and determine the ensuing efficacy and toxicity.

MR-Guided Immunotherapy (ITx) Approach for Treating Brain Metastases that is Capable of Driving an Effective Anti-tumor CD8 T Cell Response: Two-site Mouse Model of Metastatic Melanoma led by Vinton Cheng, MBBS, DPhil, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to determine the therapeutic efficacy of αCD40 administration against extracranial and intracranial tumors. It will also determine whether blood-tumor barrier delivery of αCD40 will enhance efficacy and whether thermal ablation of extracranial tumor in presence of αCD40 enhances efficacy for one or both tumors. (This project is also a Brain Preclinical project.)


Evaluation of Therapeutic Efficacy and Safety of Concurrent FOLFIRINOX Plus HIFU (ALPIUS 900) For Locally Advanced/Borderline Resectable Pancreatic Cancer: A Prospective Single-Center, Single-Arm, Investigator-Initiated, Open-Labeled, Exploratory Clinical Trial led by Jae Young Lee, MD, PhD, at Seoul National University Hospital. (Clinical)
This clinical trial has been designed to determine whether focused ultrasound can improve the absorption of FOLFIRINOX, a chemotherapy regimen for the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer.

MR Guided Focused Ultrasound Versus Radiotherapy for Palliative Pain Treatment in Patients with Bone Metastases led by Pejman Ghanouni, MD, PhD, at Stanford University. (Clinical)
This project, a part of the FURTHER Consortium, seeks to determine whether focused ultrasound is superior to radiotherapy for the palliative care of bone metastases.


Ultrasonic Visualization of the Focal Area in High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Field led by Joo Ha Hwang, MD, PhD, and Gwansuk Kang, PhD, at Stanford University. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to evaluate a novel imaging method, rapid passive acoustic mapping, for determining the focal point when performing ultrasound-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound procedures.

Noninvasive, Imaged-Guided, Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation of the Liver for Control of Post-Operative Hyperglycemia in a Swine Model led by Stavros Zanos, MD, PhD, and Weiguo Song, PhD, at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, and Chris Puleo, PhD, at General Electric. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to optimize noninvasive, image-guided sub-organ focused ultrasound of the liver to maximally increase insulin sensitivity and suppress postoperative hyperglycemia in a swine model.

Preclinical Investigation of Ultrasound-Guided Focused Ultrasound Therapy for Sacroiliac Joint Low Back Pain led by Amitabh Gulati, MD, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. (Preclinical)
This project seeks to evaluate an ultrasound-guided portable focused ultrasound ablation system for improving sacroiliac joint pain.

How to Apply

Research funding applications – whether for preclinical projects or for clinical trials – are driven by a two-step, peer-reviewed application process that is initiated online by the investigator. The process involves the following steps:

Research Abstract (Step 1): Submit a one-page research abstract. These are accepted on a rolling basis and allow the Foundation’s scientific team an opportunity to determine whether the proposal topic falls under the umbrella of image-guided focused ultrasound and to ensure that full research proposals are only invited for projects that may be funded. Foundation staff meet on a biweekly schedule to review all research abstracts.

Full Research Proposal (Step 2): If the research abstract is accepted, the investigator will be invited to submit a full award application. The required materials for each type of application are also listed on the Foundation’s website.

Peer Review: Full Proposals are sent for external peer review.

Funding Decisions: After peer review, Foundation staff and, in some cases, a subset of our Board of Directors, meet to discuss reviewer comments and make a funding decision. The investigator is then notified whether the proposal has been funded, rejected, or invited for revision. In general, investigators from whom revisions are requested will have only one opportunity to address reviewer comments before a final decision (fund or reject) is made.

Acceptance and Funding: Upon notification of having been selected for an award, the assigned Foundation program officer will work with the investigator and his or her institution to finalize a funding agreement.

All application materials should be submitted via the Foundation’s Editorial Manger online portal.