November 06, 2020
Nitin Arora, MD, MPH; Craig Bierle, PhD; and Keerti Dantuluri, MD, MPH

The Congenital and Perinatal Infections Rare Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (CPIC) has awarded the inaugural CPIC Pilot Award to Nitin Arora, MD, MPH, and accepted the first CPIC Scholars, Craig Bierle, PhD, and Keerti Dantuluri, MD, MPH.

The CPIC Pilot and Feasibility (P&F) Program supports research in rare pediatric viral diseases focusing on congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease, neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, and neonatal enterovirus (EV) and human parechovirus (HPeV) sepsis.

Arora, the first recipient of a CPIC Pilot Award, is an assistant professor in the Division of Neonatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research goal is to gain an understanding of perinatal vertical and postnatal horizontal transmission of pathogens.

Arora’s project, “Impact of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) on placental morphology and neonatal outcomes in primary and non-primary infected pregnancies,” will allow him to quantify histopathological findings of HCMV placental infection and establish a non-biased scoring system to assess pathological changes in the placenta. The scoring will then be combined with spatially oriented transcriptomics to extend observations into more refined measures of tissue damage and dysfunction.

The CPIC Scholars Program impacts the career development of the next generation of rare disease researchers. As the first two Scholars, Bierle and Dantuluri have committed to engage in CPIC research at their home institutions, participate in monthly online training seminars led by research faculty across the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), and learn from patient advocacy group representatives.

Bierle is an assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Minnesota. As a molecular virologist, he is interested in how TORCH pathogens cause infection at or circumvent the maternal-fetal interface. Bierle will be mentored by Mark Schleiss, MD.

Dantuluri specializes in pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases at Levine Children's Specialty Center. She is interested in epidemiologic research and gaining knowledge about clinical research implementation. Dantuluri will be mentored by Amina Ahmed, MD.

The Congenital and Perinatal Infections Rare Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (CPIC) is part of the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) through its Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR). CPIC is funded under grant number U54AI150225 as a collaboration between NCATS and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).