New Gillings Innovation Labs awarded

February 2, 2015

Four new projects – two designed to improve chronic disease care, one aimed at increasing access to cervical cancer screening, and another to track land-applied biosolids – are the most recent Gillings Innovation Labs.

Dr. Mike Aitken

Dr. Mike Aitken

Dr. Ed Fisher

Dr. Ed Fisher

Dr. P. Gordon-Larsen

Dr. Gordon-Larsen

Dr. Jennifer Smith

Dr. Jennifer Smith

Dr. Jill Stewart

Dr. Jill Stewart

Established in 2007 as part of the $50 million Gillings gift, Gillings Innovation Laboratories (GILs) are designed to solve public health problems and accelerate sustainable solutions across North Carolina and around the world. Previous GILs have built research capacity, commercialized innovative ideas, engaged interdisciplinary partners and strengthened the school’s impact in public health.

“These four teams stood out for their smart innovations, rigor and potential to help millions of people, including folks in our own state. These are exciting ideas, and we look forward to seeing what they discover,” said Julie MacMillan, MPH, managing director of Research and Innovation Solutions, the office that manages programs funded by the Gillings gift.

The new projects include:

  • “Automated Monitoring, Managing and Messaging for Peer Support in Diabetes Management,” with Edwin Fisher, PhD, professor of health behavior as principal investigator (P.I.). This project will explore the combination of live peer support with a computer-based monitoring, managing and messaging system to improve diabetes care. Patients, clinicians and health coaches will participate. The combination of high- tech and peer support is expected to be tailor-made for reaching large numbers of individuals, such as through mobile devices.
  • “Accelerating Transdisciplinary Collaborative Clinical Care Locally and Globally to Improve Diabetes Outcomes,” with Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, professor of nutrition, as P.I. The project addresses Affordable Care Act requirements that mandate collaborative care for patients with chronic conditions. Researchers will work closely with UNC physicians to develop an educational program for health-care providers. The program draws on tools being developed for the Population Health Certificate program, which prepares ambulatory care teams to effectively coordinate collaborative care. The project includes collaboration with Peking University International Hospital in China.
  • “Self-Collection to Increase Access to Cervical Cancer Screening and Reduce Health Disparities in Kenya,” with Jennifer S. Smith, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology, as P.I. The project will involve 200 participants to investigate a novel HPV E6 biomarker as a triage test to improve cervical cancer screening programs and leverage an existing study in Mombasa, Kenya, being funded by UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The project also will establish a collaboration between pathology departments at UNC and The University of Nairobi.
  • “Novel Tools to Track Land-Applied Biosolids,” with Jill R. Stewart, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering, as P.I. and Michael D. Aitken, PhD, chair and professor of environmental sciences and engineering, as co-P.I. The project seeks to identify unique molecular signatures of biosolids (solids removed during treatment of municipal wastewater), which typically are applied to agricultural land as fertilizer. Fieldwork done in North Carolina will produce a novel tool for local and global use to evaluate the fate and transport of biosolids away from application sites as a means of assessing potential human exposure.

Each Gillings Innovation Laboratory includes financial support for the project’s execution.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.