“Synergy” not just a buzzword for UNYTE Translational Research Network

Fish oil and aspirin work pretty well together — better, actually, than the sum of their parts.

And as it turns out, the same can be true of clinical researchers and basic scientists.


Bob Block, M.D.

For the past four years, Bob Block, M.D., MPH, of the University of Rochester Medical Center; Tom Brenna, Ph.D., of Cornell University; and Shaker Mousa, Ph.D., MBA, of the Albany College of Pharmacology and Health Sciences have worked together to advance research on the interaction of fish oil and aspirin.

They’ve captured a handful of grants and have published nine peer-reviewed articles in leading journals.

And they all say that none of them would have been able to do it on their own.

The UNYTE Translational Research Network exists to promote collaborations such as this one, and on May 16, neuroscience researchers are invited to attend a free, half-day UNYTE program at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where attendees from universities across the region will meet to share expertise and knowledge with one another.


Shaker Mousa, Ph.D.


The word ‘synergy,’ corporatized and beaten to cliché, can draw eyerolls when used in conversation.  But there isn’t a better word to describe what UNYTE has been working towards since its inception: bringing researchers together to share expertise and capabilities in the hopes of producing stronger results than any collaborator could achieve on their own.

When Block, Brenna, and Mousa met several years ago — through an early collaborative network that preceded UNYTE — they realized that they each had something to contribute to a study on the effects of fish oil and aspirin in patients.


Tom Brenna, Ph.D.

The University of Rochester Medical Center, where Block works as a clinician and researcher, has one of the best clinical centers in the state.  Here, subjects could be tested.  But when it came to the basic science necessary for the research — specifically, the analysis of the metabolites present in the patients after taking their doses of aspirin and fish oil — Brenna’s lab at Cornell was better equipped.

“We’re really one of the great places for studying woodchuck biology, but maybe not humans as much, so being connected to the clinical center in Rochester was important,” said Brenna.  “I certainly couldn’t have done those studies here.”

Mousa, meanwhile, had a lab set up in Albany that was adept with analysis of Omega-3 fatty acids.

“It’s not 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 3,” said Mousa.  “It’s 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals thousands.”

Thousands of dollars in grant support, that is.

As the research progressed, the coalition showed that fish oil and aspirin could interact in ways that reduced platelet function — important for those who are fighting cardiovascular disease.  Their early work was published in several journals, spawning additional support, and most recently, Block, Brenna, and Mousa were awarded a $275,000 R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health to further their studies.  Next, they’re hoping to file for a joint R01 grant.


In addition to the lab capabilities brought by each collaborator, Block, Brenna, and Mousa were able to bounce ideas off one another throughout the length of the research.

“For the R21 study, we gave patients fish oil, aspirin, and both, and Dr. Brenna was saying that we should really measure blood levels for the Omega 3s as well,” said Block.  “So we did, and we were really glad we did.  So it’s nice to have different ways of thinking.  That’s where the power is in a collaboration like this.”

At UNYTE’s half-day neuroscience conference, researchers from about a dozen different universities are expected to attend.  Keynote speakers are Jonathan Wolpaw, M.D., and Gerv Schalk, Ph.D., of the Wadsworth Center, the Public Health Laboratory for the NYS Department of Health in Albany.

To register, or for more information, click here.

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