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 Successful SVS Foundation-Funded Research Leads to a Clinical Trial Opportunity

“The SVS® Foundation Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) is an outstanding mechanism to develop oneself into an investigator at the most critical time in your career - the early junior faculty phase,” said Dr. Michael Conte, the Co-Director of the Heart and Vascular Center at the University of California at San Francisco. 

From July 1999 through June 2004, Dr. Conte’s SVS Foundation award - which is jointly sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health - funded his research, Genetic Engineering of a Failure Resistant Vein Graft. The research proved to be more than successful.

“The most critical elements for success are the relationship with a well chosen mentor(s), the commitment of the department and division to support the endeavor, and the institutional environment that surrounds you,” said Dr. Conte. Both his research topic and his choice of mentor were extensions of his postdoctoral fellowship training. 
“I studied gene transfer and vascular biology as a postdoctoral fellow during my training,” said Dr. Conte. “My primary mentor on the K08 was one of my mentors from postdoctoral fellowship training. The relationship was formative to my scientific training and development as an investigator. During the course of my K award, I also developed very important mentoring relationships with other senior collaborators who were also critical in my academic development.”

As a result of Dr. Conte’s research, he uncovered two major developments. “The first was a shift of our scientific emphasis entirely from targeting one cell type to another as a direct result of the results we were getting in the lab and the new directions that arose,” he said. “In turn, this led us into an entirely different area of vascular biology that ultimately resulted in R01 funding.

“Secondly, I had the opportunity to direct a large multicenter clinical trial in the same general area of research as my K08. This was a major event in my scientific career. I probably would not have gotten that opportunity had I not been working in this scientific area.”

Dr. Conte acknowledges that his SVS Foundation-funded research provided a positive impact on his career. “This was a transformative award in many ways especially with the ultimate receipt of an R01 grant and the opportunity to lead a large Phase II clinical trial. I also learned a great deal about career development that has hopefully made me an effective mentor."

Posted April 2011

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