Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust Invests in the Young Researchers Making New Discoveries Related to Human Health at Iowa State University

CATEGORIES: News, Notable, Research
A close-up of Vincenzo Venditti.
Vincenzo Venditti

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine, Iowa, has committed $643,896 to Iowa State University to support two early-career researchers seeking to find solutions to such health-related issues as drug-resistant infections and traumatic brain injury in troops. In addition, the Carver Trust has committed $500,000 to establish a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The fellowship program will provide opportunities for the postdoctoral researchers who will be the next generation of biomedical scientists, as well as further Iowa State’s research in areas that will lead to breakthroughs in human health.

The Carver Trust will provide $375,000 to support the research project of Vincenzo Venditti, assistant professor of chemistry at Iowa State. Venditti’s group will design potent inhibitors of an enzyme present in drug-resistant bacteria – but not present in the organisms under attack – that can function as highly specific antibacterial drugs by diminishing both the growth rate and virulence of the infective agent.

“Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk,” Venditti said. “Research and development in this area has been largely limited to improving existing antibiotics. Instead, advances in treatment of infections will be more likely achieved by truly novel medicines, with new molecular targets and mechanisms of action. With the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust’s support, our group aims to develop a new class of antimicrobials that target a signaling pathway that is present in bacteria but not in higher organisms.”

Sarah Bentil, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and William March Scholar in Mechanical Engineering, will receive $268,896 for her research group’s project titled “The Brain’s Response to Shockwaves for Assessing Blast-induced Traumatic Brain Injuries.”

“For more than a decade, blast-induced traumatic brain injury, or bTBI, from explosives has been the leading cause of injury to our troops serving in combat zones. Symptoms of bTBI – such as memory loss, headache, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder ¬– cannot be prevented by wearing current combat helmets,” Bentil said. “The experiments that we are conducting on brains will quantify the tissue response to shockwave loads. The results of our work may be used for validating computational models predicting injuries sustained during blast impact. Such a predictive model, once developed, could aid in the design of helmets that can mitigate injuries due to skull fracture, penetrating objects and bTBIs. We’re thankful to the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust for its support of this work.”

The new postdoctoral fellowship program, made possible through $500,000 in support from the Carver Trust, is designed to attract the most promising early-career biomedical researchers to work with faculty investigators in multiple departments at Iowa State, including the Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology.

“Thanks to the advent of new technologies and techniques, Iowa State’s faculty researchers can rapidly move insight gained in the lab to applications for human health – if they have skilled postdoctoral scientists to pursue possible leads,” said Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We are grateful for to the Carver Trust for investing in this program, which will enable us to advance our strongest biomedical research programs by attracting the country’s top young scientists to Iowa State – those who will make the transformational discoveries that will change the world.”

Over the past three decades, the Carver Trust has made gift commitments of more than $42 million to support Iowa State University. “These awards illustrate how investment in unique programs and projects may strategically advance the university’s overall scientific enterprise,” said Troy Ross, executive administrator of the Carver Trust, “We are pleased to support Iowa State’s efforts to attract, retain and empower promising young investigators.”

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in Muscatine, Iowa, is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the state of Iowa, with assets of more than $300 million and annual grant distributions of more than $15 million. It was created through the will of Roy J. Carver, a Muscatine industrialist and philanthropist, who died in 1981. The Iowa State University Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State University. The Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, with a historic goal to raise $1.1 billion, will help support Iowa State in becoming the premier land-grant university for the 21st century and beyond.

Vincenzo Venditti, Department of Chemistry, Iowa State University, 515.294.1044
Sarah Bentil, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University, 515.294.8528
Amy Juhnke, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University, 515.294.0461
Karen Simon, Communications, ISU Foundation, 515.294.7263