Alexander Grabner, MD - Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant (2018)

By ASN Staff

Name: Alexander Grabner, MD

Institution: Duke University

Grant: Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant (2018)

Project Title: The Role of FGF23 and FGFR4 in Cardio-Renal Syndrome
 

How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

  • My ongoing research investigates novel molecular mechanisms contributing to cardio-renal syndrome, a bi-directional pathophysiologic link between cardiac disease and renal injury thereby emphasizing fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 23 biology.


Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.

  • With the support of the Carl W. Gottschalk Research scholar I aim to shed further light on the role of FGF23 and its receptor FGFR4 in the development of cardiovascular disease and on the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Using transgenic animals and different models of CKD we aim to test the hypothesis that FGF23 contributes to renal injury in CKD and also causes cardiac dysfunction, which together directly and indirectly promotes the progression of CKD.


What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

  • The cardio-renal syndrome is a fascinating pathophysiologic entity and contributing molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Almost 13% of the global population suffer from CKD and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death of CKD patients. However, despite targeting traditional risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes or dyslipidemia, hard clinical outcomes have not significantly improved in recent years.


What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

  • My research emphasizes the role of FGF23 and especially FGFR4 in cardiovascular disease in CKD. FGF receptors belong the group of receptor tyrosine kinases and tyrosine kinase inhibitors have been established as desirable drug targets as therapy for cancer, inflammatory and metabolic diseases. Small molecules targeting FGFR4 already exist and are currently in first clinical trials targeting several types of cancer. Eventually, in the distant future those FGFR4 inhibitors are successfully used in CKD to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease which ultimately improves morbidity and mortality rates of our patients.


What are your short- and long-term career goals?

  • By the end of this career development award I aim for my first and hopefully successful R01 submission. In the next 5 years I hope to establish myself as an independent investigator in the United States. Finally, I’ve learned from the past decade that it’s hard to project for the next 10 years. The defined goal is a tenured position. In academic research, as a clinician or in pharmaceutical industry has yet to be seen.


What has surprised you most about your career?

  • I’m still astonished by the direction of my career and especially what influence failures as well as scientific success had on my personal development. I went to med-school in Austria with the defined goal of becoming a clinician at one of our rural hospitals and now I am a translational scientist at Duke University.


What are the major challenges facing nephrology research today?

  • Our understanding of mechanism of disease has significantly advanced in recent years, yet the translation into the clinical scenario has often failed due to the complexity of kidney disease especially in conjunction with its co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease. Since several large clinical trials exhibited negative results, I have the impression that nephrologists and nephrology researchers have become very conservative and careful about the potential impact of their scientific findings.


What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?

  • Be smart, be creative, make a bold hypothesis and support it with exciting preliminary data. Do not doubt yourself too much. And probably the most important one: Be persistent. If an application gets rejected, adapt and improve your grant and apply again.


Something you may not know about me is…

  • Since I have dedicated my research to cardiovascular and renal disease, I own a tattoo of a heart as well as a kidney. (Yes, you can consider that cheesy).


In my free time I like to…

  • be outdoorsy with my family and our golden retriever puppy. Furthermore, I consider myself a music aficionado. I enjoy concerts and shows as much as my extensive vinyl collection.
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Name: Alexander Grabner, MD

Institution: Duke University

Grant: Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant (2018)

Project Title: The Role of FGF23 and FGFR4 in Cardio-Renal Syndrome
 

How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

  • My ongoing research investigates novel molecular mechanisms contributing to cardio-renal syndrome, a bi-directional pathophysiologic link between cardiac disease and renal injury thereby emphasizing fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 23 biology.


Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.

  • With the support of the Carl W. Gottschalk Research scholar I aim to shed further light on the role of FGF23 and its receptor FGFR4 in the development of cardiovascular disease and on the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Using transgenic animals and different models of CKD we aim to test the hypothesis that FGF23 contributes to renal injury in CKD and also causes cardiac dysfunction, which together directly and indirectly promotes the progression of CKD.


What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

  • The cardio-renal syndrome is a fascinating pathophysiologic entity and contributing molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Almost 13% of the global population suffer from CKD and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death of CKD patients. However, despite targeting traditional risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes or dyslipidemia, hard clinical outcomes have not significantly improved in recent years.


What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

  • My research emphasizes the role of FGF23 and especially FGFR4 in cardiovascular disease in CKD. FGF receptors belong the group of receptor tyrosine kinases and tyrosine kinase inhibitors have been established as desirable drug targets as therapy for cancer, inflammatory and metabolic diseases. Small molecules targeting FGFR4 already exist and are currently in first clinical trials targeting several types of cancer. Eventually, in the distant future those FGFR4 inhibitors are successfully used in CKD to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease which ultimately improves morbidity and mortality rates of our patients.


What are your short- and long-term career goals?

  • By the end of this career development award I aim for my first and hopefully successful R01 submission. In the next 5 years I hope to establish myself as an independent investigator in the United States. Finally, I’ve learned from the past decade that it’s hard to project for the next 10 years. The defined goal is a tenured position. In academic research, as a clinician or in pharmaceutical industry has yet to be seen.


What has surprised you most about your career?

  • I’m still astonished by the direction of my career and especially what influence failures as well as scientific success had on my personal development. I went to med-school in Austria with the defined goal of becoming a clinician at one of our rural hospitals and now I am a translational scientist at Duke University.


What are the major challenges facing nephrology research today?

  • Our understanding of mechanism of disease has significantly advanced in recent years, yet the translation into the clinical scenario has often failed due to the complexity of kidney disease especially in conjunction with its co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease. Since several large clinical trials exhibited negative results, I have the impression that nephrologists and nephrology researchers have become very conservative and careful about the potential impact of their scientific findings.


What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?

  • Be smart, be creative, make a bold hypothesis and support it with exciting preliminary data. Do not doubt yourself too much. And probably the most important one: Be persistent. If an application gets rejected, adapt and improve your grant and apply again.


Something you may not know about me is…

  • Since I have dedicated my research to cardiovascular and renal disease, I own a tattoo of a heart as well as a kidney. (Yes, you can consider that cheesy).


In my free time I like to…

  • be outdoorsy with my family and our golden retriever puppy. Furthermore, I consider myself a music aficionado. I enjoy concerts and shows as much as my extensive vinyl collection.
Date:
Tuesday, July 17, 2018