June 3, 2015
Rui Kuai named an American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellow

The College is pleased to announce that Rui Kuai, Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD student, has been awarded an American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellowship. This extremely competitive, two-year fellowship was awarded by the AHA Research Committee after reviewing Rui’s research proposal titled, “The Use of Synthetic High Density Lipoproteins as Carriers to Regulate PCSK9 for LDL Management”. The fellowship will begin on July 1, 2015.

Rui Kuai, a third year grad student, is co-mentored by Dr. Anna Schwendeman and Dr. James Moon.  Mentors, an important part of the fellowship research process, provide counsel and direction in the conduct and progress of the research project.

"PCSK9 inhibition is a promising approach to lower the LDL level, especially for patients who are not responsive to statins due to the relatively high baseline LDL levels," says Dr. Moon. "Rui aims to use a synthetic version of high density lipoprotein (sHDL) to deliver siRNA or peptide vaccine against PCSK9. This is an innovative approach to lowering LDL cholesterol, and his studies may lead to novel strategies for long-term management of 'bad' cholesterol. Rui is an outstanding graduate student with impressive depth of knowledge and technical skills in pharmaceutical sciences. He is also an extremely hard working student who is an absolute joy to work with.  Rui, who is co-mentored by myself and Prof. Anna Schwendeman, quickly absorbed technical expertise from the two laboratories and is now embarking on a new unexplored territory of managing LDL-cholesterol with HDL-based therapeutics."

"Rui came up with this idea on his own," adds Dr. Schwendeman. "He is exploiting the natural tropism of HDL to the liver so that siRNA against PCSK9 can be efficiently delivered to its target organ. He also plans to utilize the HDL vaccine platform that he has developed in Moon’s laboratory to achieve long-term antibody responses against PCSK9. We are currently engaging intramural NHLBI/NIH collaborators to measure anti-PCSK9 antibody titers in vaccinated animals and show their therapeutic efficacy to reduce LDL in vivo."

The aim of the fellowship is to help students initiate careers in cardiovascular and stroke research by providing research assistance and training. The fellowships are reviewed by a committee of three reviewers, scored, and then ranked with a percentile. The award focuses on a required research plan proposal, academic records, an individual development plan, as well as the environment in which the research will take place.

Congratulations to Rui on this outstanding accomplishment!