Phase II Sickle Cell COBRE Awarded

Congratulations to our fellow Delaware Clinical and Translational Research ACCEL Program members and affiliates on their recent 5-year $10.5 million NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Phase II grant award!

The second phase, entitled The Delaware Comprehensive Sickle Cell Research Center, will focus on translational, clinical, and psychosocial research in sickle cell disease.

“This is really designed to develop a nice, mentored environment for early investigators to establish their independence,” explained Andy Kolb, MD, Director of the Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, who will serve as the Principal Investigator for the COBRE Phase II.

Previously, COBRE Phase 1 grant was under the original leadership of Marie Stuart, MD, until her retirement in 2018 when Vicky Funanage, PhD, Executive Director of Research and Chair of the DE-CTR ACCEL Internal Advisory Committee, took over the leadership role from May 2018 to August 2021. Together with Dr. Kolb as Director of the Clinical and Data Management Core, Heesun Newlin as Program Administrator, and Robin Miller, MD, Steven Reader, PhD, Dula Man, PhD, and Natalia Rivera, PhD, as Project Leads, the Phase 1 team healped to build the infrastructure for sickle cell disease research at Nemours and produced an active research program with impressive, newly acquired research funding and the combination of two health networks, Nemours and ChristianaCare, to advance sickle cell treatment and research.

In the application for Phase II, one reviewer of the success of COBRE Phase I wrote:

“This COBRE-II application is based on an impressive amalgamation of accomplishments from their initial COBRE-I support. For a state that had little in the way of care of sickle cell patients and no significant research in this disease, the COBRE-I program produced an active research program with impressive newly acquired research funding and a joining of two medical centers in sickle cell treatment and research. Beginning with little in the way of sickle cell research, COBRE-I recruited some well-known senior investigators to develop research program directions and recruited and mentored successfully post-doctoral scholars and junior faculty, as well as bringing faculty in other areas of research into the field of sickle cell disease.”


Following the success of the initial COBRE, Phase II will develop a multidisciplinary Center that will strengthen early-career investigator mentoring, while further advancing biomedical research infrastructure for sickle cell disease research. The Center will bring investigators, mentors, and advisors together from Nemours Children’s Health, ChristianaCare, the University of Delaware, and Delaware State University, while integrating supportive resources and infrastructure provided by the Delaware IDeA Network, the Delaware CTR ACCEL Program, and ChristianaCare’s iREACH program.

COBRE Phase II includes an Administrative Core led by Kolb and Newlin, with support from the Executive Committee (Anne Kazak, PhD; Eric Kmiec, PhD [Christiana Care]; and Drs. Miller and Kolb), an Internal Advisory Committee (Robert Akins, PhD; Vicky Funanage, PhD; Claudine Jurkovitz, MD [Christiana Care]; Thomas Shaffer, PhD; Cherese Winstead, PhD [Delaware State University]; and Cathy Wu, PhD [University of Delaware]), and a Clinical Research and Data Informatics Core, co-led by Dr. Miller and Erin Crowgey, PhD.

In addition to both the Administrative and Clinical Research ad Data Informatics cores, the renewed COBRE grant features four target investigator projects:

  • Project 1 – Increasing Documentation and Disclosure of Sickle Cell Trait Carrier Status: An Implementation Science Approach, led by Corinna Schultz, MD, with primary mentor, Melissa Alderfer, PhD.
  • Project 2 – Empowering Adolescents and Young Adults with Sickle Cell Disease, led by Aimee Hildenbrand, PhD, with primary mentor, Lori Crosby, PsyD (Cincinnati Children’s).
  • Project 3 – Chronic Pain and Self-efficacy—A Peer-Mediated Group Intervention for Adults with Sickle Cell Disease, led by Stephanie Guarino, MD, with primary mentor, Sophie Lanzkron, MD (Johns Hopkins).
  • Project 4 – The Eye as a Window into Sickle Cell Disease Morbidity, led by Jing Jin, MD, with primary mentor, Melinda Duncan, PhD (University of Delaware).

Upon receiving the award, the NIH Review Panel stated, “This is an excellent application with clinically significant and novel research goals, strong core directors and mentors, and an impressive core of junior investigators with novel and clinically important projects. The direction of the planned research is meaningful in addressing stigma and involving stakeholders in the research development, implementation, and evaluation of outcomes.”

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