1:21 p.m., Jan. 21, 2010----Being recognized by peers who do similar work is one of the highest honors a person can receive. This is true for Ulhas Naik, professor of biological sciences at the University of Delaware and researcher at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI), who has been voted a fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA).
The prestigious national honor recognizes meritorious work in a field of science that benefits society, and is a distinction awarded to just a few. Naik is one of 13 American Heart Association Fellows elected this year among several thousand national and international members of the Atherosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) council of the AHA.
“The majority of people named as fellows of the American Heart Association are medical doctors who conduct patient care on a daily basis,” said Naik. “Few are scientists like me. So to be recognized by my peers has been a great honor for me.”
Naik has been a member of the AHA for 20 years and was awarded the Ella Fitzgerald Fellowship and the Kenneth M. Brinkhous Young Investigator Award early in his career. However, this fellowship is markedly more significant to Naik because he was nominated by and voted for by his peers -- other scientists and physicians also in the field of ATVB.
“It's harder for scientists to become fellows of the AHA because patient care is not part of our work; we are conducting experiments in a lab,” said Naik. “The research has to be ground-breaking to earn a fellowship.”
And Naik's research is just that. In 2009, Naik discovered a protein involved in the early formation of blood clots. Knowing that clot formation is the cause of heart attacks and strokes -- blocking blood flow to the heart or brain, respectively -- has led to research in how to prevent them.
Naik has been researching the formation of blood clots (thrombosis) and the complex process of stopping bleeding (hemostasis) for the last 20 years. One of his most significant accomplishments was being the first to clone and characterize two very important proteins, CIB1, calcium and integrin binding protein 1 and JAM-A, junctional adhesion molecule A.
He later showed that CIB1 is critical for the process of platelet clumping and hence blood clot formation. On the other hand, he found JAM-A functions to protect against platelet clumping.
Naik's independent research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the last 15 years.
When asked about the impact of his research, Naik replied, saying his research is still at the basic level and needs to be taken to the translational level to be beneficial to society.
Naik has also been appointed director of the Delaware Cardiovascular Research Center, a venture two years in the making that will serve as a joint research venture between Delaware Health Sciences Alliance partners UD, Christiana Care, Nemours and Thomas Jefferson University.
Naik's fellowship with the AHA will be good recognition for the center once it's open.
“Once open, the Delaware Cardiovascular Research Center will bring together the best cardiac researchers -- both medical doctors and scientists - to perform world-class translational research to improve treatment of cardiovascular patients,” said Naik.
Naik hopes the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance will enhance collaboration of the clinicians from Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care and Nemours/A.I duPont Hospital for Children so that together, they can take cardiovascular research to the next level.
Article by Laura Crozier
Photo by Ambre Alexander