Called to Be: Health & Environment

Title:Alumnus gift continues to support early-stage medical research through GUMC Gap Fund

Charbel Moussa, MBBS, PhD; Christian Wolf, PhD; Seema Agarwal, PhD; Richard Schlegel, MD, PhD; and Chip Albanese, PhD
Charbel Moussa, MBBS, Ph.D.; Christian Wolf, Ph.D.; Seema Agarwal, Ph.D.; Richard Schlegel, M.D., Ph.D.; and Chip Albanese, Ph.D.

For the second year in a row, the GUMC Gap Fund is supporting researchers with novel and innovative ideas that are at a stage in research development when there is little support from the existing federal grant structure.

Three groups have been selected for the 2022 cohort. The teams include Charbel Moussa, MBBS, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and director for the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism at GUMC, and Christian Wolf, Ph.D., chemistry professor and director of the Medicinal Chemistry Shared Resource Center; the team of Seema Agarwal, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Pathology, and Richard Schlegel, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pathology; and Chip Albanese, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Oncology and executive director and founder of the Center for Translational Imaging.

The fund, a collaboration between the Office of Advancement and the Office of Technology Commercialization, is made possible by a $1 million gift from Georgetown family Bill Baker (C’54, Parent’80, ’84, ’88) and Ruth Baker (Parent’80, ’84, ’88). It invests between $50,000 and $100,000 per project for one year to bridge the gap between developmental milestones, with an opportunity to qualify for subsequent funding.

A commitment to innovation

Baker is committed to strengthening Georgetown’s entrepreneurial ecosystem of advisors, collaborators, and funders for medical research. He is a longtime leader in the Georgetown community; he has served on the Georgetown Board of Directors and Board of Regents, played an instrumental role in the sale of Georgetown University Hospital to MedStar Health, volunteered with the Career Network, and served as vice chair of the Wall Street Alliance.

“It is my hope that this fund acts as a catalyst for the university’s growing entrepreneurial culture,” says Bill Baker. “I believe it will increase investments and partnerships within the university community to create common good.”

Between the first and second annual GUMC Gap Fund awardee cohort, the number of letters of inquiry from researchers doubled. A group of industry and commercialization leaders comprising the Gap Fund Advisory Board review letters of intent and full applications for funding. Members of the board include:

  • Billy Jack, vice provost for research and professor of economics
  • John Jabara, entrepreneur in residence at Georgetown McDonough and the concentration lead/curriculum adviser for business & entrepreneurship for the School of Continuing Studies Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Program
  • Spiros Dimolitsas, Ph.D., senior vice president for research & chief technology officer for Georgetown University
  • Lou Weiner, M.D., professor and director of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and Francis L. and Charlotte G. Gragnani Chair in the Department of Oncology
  • Christopher Culley, vice president for enterprise initiatives in Georgetown’s Office of the Chief Operating Officer
  • Moshe Levi, M.D., dean for research and professor of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology at Georgetown University Medical Center
  • Elizabeth Good Mazahari, investment and DEI advisor (consultant) for TEDCO, a Maryland-based organization supporting early-stage technology and life science companies
  • Garrett Vygantas (MBA’03, M’04), M.D., MBA, managing director for OSF Ventures, a life science and health care-focused venture capital firm based in California
  • Jonah Cashdan (C’16), vice president at Bain Capital Life Sciences

“The technologies and teams evaluated by the Gap Fund were truly remarkable,” says Gap Fund Advisory Board member Garrett Vygantas. “There are so many exciting projects in the works at Georgetown that will make important impacts on the life science and health care fields. I look forward to tracking and supporting these teams as they progress through their development and commercialization milestones.”

This year’s awardees represent work in neurosciences and cancer—two affirmed priority areas of research at the Medical Center. Moussa and Wolf are leading development of potential new drugs for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Agarwal and Schlegel are developing a platform technology with wide application for studying various types of cancer including breast, lung, pancreatic, cholangiocarcinoma, and colon cancers. Albanese’s project focuses on improved treatment and survival rates of children affected by brain tumors.

Georgetown University has filed a patent application directed to technology reported here with Moussa and Wolf named as co-inventors. Georgetown has also filed a patent application on the  technology reported here with Agarwal and Schlegel. Georgetown owns an issued patent and a pending application on technology invented by Albanese that is reported here. For information about the technologies described, contact Ruchika Nijhara at

2021 awardees

Awardees selected in 2021 have achieved their identified six-month milestones and will receive a second round of funding to continue advancing their work.

Two awardees chosen in August 2021 for the inaugural cohort of GUMC Gap Fund recipients were Jill P. Smith, M.D., professor of medicine at Georgetown; and the team of Robert Glazer, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Moshe Levi, M.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology and interim dean for research at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Smith’s research is directed to biodegradable and non-toxic nanoparticles designed to detect and treat early stages of pancreatic cancer. Her project is ahead of schedule, has published a paper on the work supported by the gap fund, and has also applied for an NIH R01 Grant.

Glazer and Levi’s research involves understanding a tumor’s microenvironment, specifically fibrosis—the development of excess extracellular matrix proteins that can contribute to a weakened immune tolerance and resistance to cancer therapy. Their project is on schedule and has begun coordinating activities to work toward its next identified milestone, which focuses on testing its drug in two breast cancer models.

To inquire about supporting the GUMC Gap Fund, contact Mark Antonucci at

Georgetown University has filed a patent application directed to technology reported here with Levi and Glazer named as co-inventors. In addition, Georgetown has a pending patent application in the U.S. and Europe with Smith as one of the co-inventors. The patent application is co-owned with NIH. For information about the technologies described, contact Ruchika Nijhara at