Feature Article
Neonatologist to lead clinical trial for early diagnosis of lung disease in newborns

Alvaro Moreira, MD, MSc, neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, received a $652,000 mentored career development grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. Moreira will investigate a novel approach to diagnosing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This chronic and costly lung condition affects upwards of 15,000 newborns in the U.S. every year, impairing the lifelong quality of children born preterm.

Alvaro Moreira, MD, MSc, neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, received a $652,000 mentored career development grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. Moreira will investigate a novel approach to diagnosing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This chronic and costly lung condition affects upwards of 15,000 newborns in the U.S. every year, impairing the lifelong quality of children born preterm.

Inspiration meets an innovative approach to diagnosis and treatment

Building on the research data compiled by two preeminent neonatologists, Dr. Moreira aims to test his hypothesis of developing a blood biomarker, or a set of blood biomarkers, that can accurately predict early in the hospital course of preterm newborns, who will develop this debilitating condition and its degree of severity. The goal is to develop a bedside test that will provide an accurate diagnosis within 24 hours to target the correct population in future clinical trials. Currently, the diagnosis of BPD is made at one month of life and the severity of the disease is characterized at ages two to three months.

“Everyone has approximately 20,000 genes,” said Dr. Moreira. “From those, we have identified 20 genes that can accurately predict (>90%) which babies will get the disease in the first week of life. More impressively, ten of the genes align to a signaling pathway that are currently modifiable, which means that there are already established therapies that we may be able to repurpose to treat BPD,” he added.

Mentors unleash his research passion  

A native of Nicaragua who was raised in El Paso, Texas, Dr. Moreira confessed that research was not an interest when pursuing his undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at El Paso, nor his medical degree at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). However, he credits the pivot in his career trajectory to Cara Geary, MD, PhD, a neonatologist who fueled his passion for research during his residency at UTMB.

At UT Health San Antonio, Dr. Moreira has continued to advance his research and grantsmanship skills guided by several mentors. They include Sunil Ahuja, MD, professor and director of the GrantSeekers 2.0 program; Steven Seidner, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics;  Jay Peters, MD, professor and pulmonologist, as well as chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and Peter Hornsby, PhD, professor and co-director of the San Antonio Nathan Shock Center and co-leader of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. “The institution’s community of scholars has provided a research infrastructure to build exciting and innovative approaches that may change how neonatal medicine is practiced around the world,” Dr. Moreira shared.

Dr. Moreira has been the recipient of several grants, including KL2 Scholar (2016), supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Award, the Parker B. Francis Fellowship award for the  advancement of pulmonary and respiratory diseases and a pilot grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Bringing hope to children and families

When asked why he chose the field of neonatology, Dr. Moreira quickly responded, “When it came time for me to choose a patient population that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to serving, I knew I wanted to focus on an innocent population, and that’s children. If we can optimize their medical care when they are young, we can set them up to have a long, healthy and prosperous life.”

July 21 [VIRTUAL] Recruitment Innovation Center COVID-19 recruitment and retention toolkit

11 a.m. – noon  

Free registration 


July 27 [VIRTUAL] Getting off to a Great Start: Tips for Building a Fundable Team

Noon – 1 p.m. 

Free registration 

August 18 [VIRTUAL] Dissemination: A Critical Component of the Research Process

11 a.m. – noon 

Free registration 

Research Roundup
Clinician-scientist receives warm greeting by residents at the Army retirement center

A capacity audience of 140 residents gathered for lunch last month, eager to welcome back a leading scholar in aging research, Sara Espinoza, MD, MSc, section chief of research at the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. Dr. Espinoza discussed daily living practices that independent-living seniors can do to prevent frailty in their later years. Residents were interested in hearing about clinical trials in which they could participate. Dr. Espinoza provided details on a study evaluating whether metformin can prevent or reduce frailty in adults with pre-diabetes.

Current and recent postdoc fellows: It’s time to nominate your mentor

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is accepting nominations for Research Mentor of the Year. Eligibility criteria is available on the website. Deadline: July 26.

Nominations open: Master distinguished researcher and master distinguished mentor

The Long School of Medicine has opened the call for nominations through Aug. 17 to recognize faculty who exemplify scholarly service and scientific discovery that advances the institution’s vision to be a world-class academic health center.

We invite your feedback

Earlier this year, the research administration team launched the “Navigating the Research Lifecycle” website to provide the research community information about the grant development pathway. To continue refinement of the website to better serve researchers, we are seeking your input. Please click here to complete the five-minute REDCap survey (responses are confidential) by Tuesday, Aug. 3. Survey insights will be shared in a fall issue of the Research newsletter.

Research Stories
Voelcker Fund awards $1.1 million for cancer research to early career investigators


The 2021 Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund Young Investigator Award recipients were announced last month by the private foundation Josephine Taverna, MD, and Lizhen Chen, PhDwere each awarded a $450,000 three-year career grant award and Angelina Vaseva, PhD, received a pilot awardThe investigators credit the support they each received from their mentors, and the expertise provided by the personnel at the institutional core labssupported by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Western high-fat diet can cause chronic pain

Ken Hargreaves, DDS, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Endodontics and principal investigator of the NIH/NINDS National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke R01, is proud of the collaboration of 15 scientists leading to the discovery of  a link between a high-fat diet and chronic pain published in the June issue of Nature Metabolism The multi-year study was led by first co-authors Jacob T. Boyd, MD, PhD, recent graduate of the Long School of Medicine, and Peter M. LoCoco, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Hargreaves’ lab.

New paper provides a link between common chemicals and ‘unexplained’ chronic illnesses

Family and community medicine professor emeritus Claudia S. Miller, MD, and Raymond F. Palmer, PhD, professor, co-authored a paper suggesting link between exposures to common chemicals and so-called unexplained illnessesThe new paper’s findings are expected to be used by public health scientists, physicians and policymakers seeking to limit harmful exposures and prevent future disease.

Design thinking: Neurosurgeon-patented technology, HiccAway, demonstrates it works and is ready for retail

After four years in development, the forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool (FISST), which was patented and licensed last year, will be available at H-E-B this fall.


The results on the efficacy of the science-based intervention for hiccups was reported in the research letter published in JAMA Network Open. Since then, inventor Ali Seifi, MD, FNCS, FCCM, associate professor of neurosurgery in the Long School of Medicine, has been widely interviewed by national and regional media. Listen to Dr. Seifi’s Texas Standard interview detailing the global study and why he set out to bring a post-op solution to brain surgery patients.

Shared resources | NIH description

Are you writing a grant? New descriptions for institutional core lab facilities can be found here. Investigators who require the use and/or services of core lab facilities are encouraged to consult the core director. Customized letters to support the grant proposal narrative are provided at no cost.

Reminder: Citing the IIMS/CTSA grant

Projects supported by the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science/Clinical and Translational Science Award are required to use appropriate acknowledgement wording for publications, news releases, websites and other communications. This includes projects for which researchers received funding, consulting, clinical research use or other services. KL2 scholars or those receiving pre- or post-doctoral stipends should click here for preferred citation wording.

Clinical Research & Clinical Trials
Aging and pre-diabetes

Are you 60 years of age or older or do you know someone who is? The Barshop Institute is seeking participants for a clinical trial evaluating whether taking a drug called dapagliflozin (brand name FARXIGA) can inhibit aging-related biomarkers in older, obese adults with pre-diabetes.

Clinical trials diversity: Mays Cancer Center partners with Genentech

Living our institutional values of diversity and inclusion, the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, became a founding member of a national coalition lead by Genentech, which aims to increase underrepresented patient populations in clinical trials to improve health equity.   

Clinical trial investigator Dr. Taylor elated by the 90% efficacy of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

Barbara Taylor, MD, MS, associate professor of infectious diseases, led the COVID-19 local study site team in partnership with University Health. The Phase 3 global clinical trial enrolled 176 participants here in less than six weeks.

National traumatic brain injury study seeks comments from the local community

As part of educating the community, plans are underway to fund a multi-site study to test the current standard of care for victims who sustain severe brain trauma in an emergency. Comments for this study are being requested because the normal patient consent process will be suspended due to the unconscious state of the victims. Click here to learn more about the study and complete the community survey.