Robert Gourdie, Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund Eminent Scholar in Heart Reparative Medicine Research and director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s Center for Vascular and Heart Research, is the first Virginia Tech researcher to receive an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health. Co-investigators on the seven-year, $6.4 million grant funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute are Steven Poelzing, Jamie Smyth, and Giulio Menciotti. Known as an R35, the grant provides Gourdie with increased freedom to carry out inventive research concepts that aren’t tethered to specific, finite projects.

For decades, Gourdie’s research has focused on how cells in the body communicate with each other and applying that knowledge to treat disease. Now, his research in intercellular communication has yielded novel therapeutic approaches to a variety of medical challenges, including preventing heart attack damage, healing chronic wounds, improving the appearance of surgical scars, sensitizing treatment-resistant glioblastoma to chemotherapy, and treating aggressive forms of cancer. His lab has also pioneered the extraction and development of organic nanocapsules, called exosomes, which can deliver fragile peptide drugs to the heart, brain, and other difficult-to-reach tissues.

Menciotti is an assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.