Introducing the inaugural Samueli Scholars

December 21, 2021

On Dec. 20, Dr. Steve Goldstein, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, and Dr. Shaista Malik, Associate Vice Chancellor for Integrative Health, announced the inaugural class of Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute Samueli Scholar awardees. 

The Samueli Scholars Award Program recognizes current UCI faculty whose achievements show extraordinary promise to advance basic, translational, or clinical scholarship in integrative health and have a history of contributions of national distinction in their disciplines. 

Thank you to the Review Committee for their dedication to the evaluation of the many applications received this year. The six 2021 Samueli Scholars are highlighted below in alphabetical order.

Geoffrey W. Abbott, PhD

Dr. Geoffrey W. Abbott is a Professor of Physiology & Biophysics, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Personnel and Vice Dean of Basic Science Research in the School of Medicine. Dr. Abbott demonstrates an extraordinary history of accomplishments in research, including the discovery of the role of two molecules in Mallotus leaves (mallotoxin and isovaleric acid) in the beneficial activation of KCNQ2/3 potassium channels and anticonvulsant activity of Mallotus. This work contributed to publications in high impact factor journals: Nature Communications and Science Advances. Dr. Abbott’s lab also uncovered beneficial activation of the vascular KCNQ5 potassium channel by ten commonly consumed plants with antihypertensive properties – work that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Abbott has an extensive history of extramural funding, including current R01 and R35 (MIRA) funding from the NIH. His research in botanical medicine has received nationwide attention and acclaim, and Dr. Abbott has been invited to share his medicinal plant findings at multiple prestigious medical schools/universities, including Northwestern, Cornell, and the University of Copenhagen. 

Through his research, Dr. Abbott hopes to continue to investigate the molecular basis of botanical medicines (including their efficacy as antihypertensives, anticonvulsants, and analgesics) and the role of ion channels as important therapeutic targets. Dr. Abbott plans to contribute significantly to the field of botanical medicine by building a botanical medicine program, conducting clinical trials with the most promising herbal therapeutics derived from past studies, and expanding his extensive plant extract library.

Olivier Civelli, PhD

Dr. Olivier Civelli is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Development and Cellular Biology. He holds the Eric and Lila Nelson Chair of Neuropharmacology. Dr. Civelli paved the way for the discovery of neuromodulators and their receptors by pioneering reverse pharmacology. He was the first to decipher the structure of a dopamine receptor, the D2 receptor, central to movement, reward and addiction. He also elucidated the diversity of the dopamine receptor family, discovered the D4 receptor which is of particular importance, because of its selectivity for the atypical antipsychotic clozapine. Moreover, he discovered the unexpected adenosine A3 receptor. He recognized that many cloned GPCRs had no known endogenous ligands, hence called orphan receptors. He invented the strategy that uses orphan receptors to discover new neurotransmitters. Utilizing this strategy, he was the first to identify a novel neuropeptide, orphanin FQ/nociceptin, which he showed to regulate anxiety. He went on to find the receptors for melanin-concentrating hormone, urotensin II and neuropeptide S.  

Using his innovative reverse pharmacology approach, Dr. Civelli plans to advance integrative health by investigating natural compounds of therapeutic plants. Specifically, Dr. Civelli plans to test the use of the Corydalis yanhusuo extract in acute, inflammatory, and chronic pain and uncover its role in limiting morphine adverse effects. Dr. Civelli also plans to investigate the active component(s) that are responsible for Corydalis’ role in preventing morphine tolerance. The potential impact of these discoveries may help curb the opioid epidemic.

Angela G. Fleischman, MD, PhD

Dr. Angela Fleischman is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Fleischman’s research endeavors have focused on investigating the role of inflammation in the development of myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN), a chronic hematologic malignancy. Dr. Fleischman is known nationwide for her expertise on the role of nutrition in MPN. Dr. Fleischman has completed two clinical trials (with record accrual rates) that have focused on investigating the effects of a Mediterranean Diet on MPN. Additionally, she plans to initiate another clinical trial to investigate anti-oxidant N-Acetylcysteine (N-AC) among MPN patients. Dr. Fleischman shows a strong history of extramural funding, including a Department of Defense Development Career Development Award, two MPN Research Foundation Challenge Awards, a Tobacco Related Disease Research Program High Impact Pilot Award, and a Cure Accelerator clinical trial award. 

Through her research, Dr. Fleischman hopes to continue to investigate the role of inflammation on MPN using mouse and human models as well as assessing the anti -inflammatory properties of antioxidant supplement N-Acetylcysteine (N-AC). Dr. Fleischman will aim to ultimately create a structured integrative hematopoiesis center at UCI with the mission of preserving healthy hematopoiesis during aging and preventing the development and progression of hematologic malignancy.

Kalpna Gupta, PhD

Dr. Kalpna Gupta is a Professor in Residence of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Gupta’s bench to bedside team science research efforts have been focused on the mechanism-based use of integrative approaches for acute and chronic pain in sickle cell disease (SCD) and cancer. As a continuously NIH-funded investigator of multiple R01s, U01, U18, multiple industry and philanthropic grants, her laboratory has made seminal observations on the pathobiology underlying pain to target pain at its source and reduce opioid use. Using these targets, she has applied integrative approaches including acupuncture, supplements, nutrition, cannabinoids and companionship to ameliorate pain, which are published in high impact journals. Her integrative approaches have attracted the attention of NIH, Community organizations, Global Scientific community, caregivers and most importantly underserved communities. A major goal of her research efforts is to ameliorate pain amongst diverse communities who suffer with pain disproportionately more due to disparities in health research. Dr Gupta regularly speaks at leading National and International Scientific and Community Meetings often as a Plenary and Keynote speaker. Her outstanding leadership includes, co-chairing Minority Committee, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) task force to address health disparities in pain research; American Society of Hematology (ASH) and FDA task force to define guidelines for pain treatment in SCD, membership of Diversity and Equity Inclusion Committee of ASH, Scientific chair of many leading National and Global Conferences, etc. She is passionate about training future generations and has obtained a NIH T35 for training MD students in research, e-mentor for NHLBI/NIH and mentor of several diversity trainees.  

Dr. Gupta believes serving as a Samueli Scholar will be a catalyst in continuing her quest to promote integrative health research and care through her own research and advancing it through global interactions with the scientific community and other organizations. Dr. Gupta plans to investigate biomarkers of treatment response to various complementary interventions as well as assess the use of bioinformatics to quantify the effects of environmental factors and social connectivity. Dr. Gupta’s research efforts will also focus on investigating the effects of global and indigenous armamentaria as potential novel therapeutic agents.

Michelle Khine, PhD

Dr. Michelle Khine is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering, with affiliate appointments in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Materials, Material Science and Engineering, and Electrical Engineering and is the Associate Dean for the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE). Dr. Khine’s research is focused on building a suite of continuous, ubiquitous, soft electronics for physiological monitoring (e.g., continuous respiratory and blood pressure sensors). Dr. Khine demonstrates a strong history of extramural funding, including receiving the prestigious NIH New Innovators Award. MIT Technology Review also named Dr. Khine a TR 35 recipient (representing 35 extraordinary researchers under 35), and her work gained popularity among media outlets (including The Oprah MagazineForbesMarie ClaireScientific American, and Fast Company). Dr. Khine has a large patent portfolio as well as an extensive publication record within various high-impact journals, including Advanced MaterialsBiomaterialsAdvanced Healthcare MaterialsNature Digital MedicineStem Cell ReportsAdvanced Optical Materials, and RSC Lab Chip.  

Dr. Khine’s research goals are to implement integrative health interventions while monitoring patients’ response in real time. This includes a project to employ mindfulness training in children with severe autism as well as to monitor the physiological signals of meditative practice on stress reduction in real time. These potential findings will provide insight on the magnitude and temporal response to meditation, offering insight into the immediate benefits of meditation practice. Among other impressive and innovative goals, Dr. Khine plans to investigate the physiological response to non-pharmacological pain reduction.

Xiangmin Xu, PhD

Dr. Xiangmin Xu is a Professor and Chancellor’s Fellow of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Director of the UCI Center for Neural Circuit Mapping (CNCM). His research achievements have spanned a broad range of topics, including evaluating functional connectivity in the mammalian forebrain in the development of binocular vision and higher cognitive function; the effects of aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and stress on circuit functioning; and the development of cutting-edge molecular tools to support neural circuit mapping studies. Dr. Xu has an extensive and impressive history of extramural funding, including multiple NIH/FDA R01 and U01 grants. With the strong collaborative infrastructure of the CNCM, Dr. Xu is successfully pursuing big team science at the very highest level to take on big problems. 

By using novel viral and genetic tools developed in his laboratory, Dr. Xu’s research efforts have expanded to investigating the neural circuit basis of acupuncture effects, and the mechanism of acupuncture modulation of cardiovascular function to manage high blood pressure. Dr. Xu will continue to contribute to the field of integrative health by focusing on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying acupuncture-mediated pain management and establishing a top national acupuncture research program.

Category: Awards & Honors