University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Physician Careers

Mawe Receives International GI Disorders Research Award

Gary Mawe
Professor of Neurological Sciences Gary Mawe, Ph.D. (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

University of Vermont Professor of Neurological Sciences Gary Mawe, Ph.D., was recently honored by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) for his role in the scientific advancement in the area of chronic digestive disorders. Mawe, who was one of eight 2013 Research Award recipients who were recognized at the 10th International Symposium on Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders held in Milwakee, Wisc., April 12 to 14, 2013. Mawe was the awardee in the Senior Basic Investigator category.

Since 2003 IFFGD, a nonprofit research and education organization, has presented awards to 38 active investigators who are working to advance scientific knowledge of functional gastrointestinal (GI) and motility disorders (FGIMDs). The organization relies on donor support to fund research and provide reliable information and ongoing support to the millions of people whose lives are impacted by these chronic digestive conditions.

“We are pleased to recognize these dedicated investigators for their contributions to functional gastrointestinal and motility research,” said Nancy Norton, president and founder of IFFGD. “Continued scientific advancement will allow us to better understand the complexities of chronic digestive disorders and improve the quality of life for those that are affected by their symptoms.”

Mawe, who joined the UVM faculty in 1988, has secondary appointments in the departments of pharmacology and medicine, and serves as an adjunct professor of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Calgary. He is recognized internationally for the translational research program he has established at UVM, which focuses on how the nervous system regulates motor activity in the intestines and the biliary tract. His research interests include the understanding of signaling by the neurotransmitter serotonin in the digestive tract; changes in the gut (enteric) nervous system in response to and following inflammation; and the mechanism by which smooth muscle function is disrupted in gallstone disease. He and his colleagues have made discoveries that provide fundamental information about how the digestive organ systems work, and insight about changes that occur in inflammatory and functional/motility disorders. His research has been consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as supported by pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, Takeda, and Proctor and Gamble.

His many awards include the Janssen Award for Gastrointestinal Research and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation Award in Excellence; the Basmajian/Williams & Wilkins Award from the American Association of Anatomists, which recognizes individuals who balance the rigors of teaching gross anatomy with a vigorous research program; and he was named a University Scholar at UVM in 2006. In addition, Mawe serves as a frequent reviewer for NIH, and has reviewed manuscripts for over 40 different journals; he is currently an Editor for The Journal of Physiology, and the Reviews Editor for the journal, Neurogastroenterology and Motility.

Recurrent themes of Mawe’s research activities include the development of junior investigators through active, thoughtful mentoring, and fruitful collaborations with expert colleagues such as Mark Nelson, Ph.D., UVM professor and chair of pharmacology; Peter Moses, M.D., UVM professor of medicine; Keith Sharkey, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Calgary; and Michael Gershon, M.D., professor and chair of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Former trainees from Mawe’s laboratory are currently faculty members or fellows at numerous prestigious institutions, including The Cleveland Clinic, The Mayo Clinic, Yale, Dartmouth, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and UCLA.

There are more than two dozen FGIMDs, which involve troubles within the esophagus (food tube), stomach, and intestines. The conditions, some of which are life threatening, involve acute or chronic pain and improper functioning of the nerves, muscles, and other related mechanisms of the digestive tract and have few treatment options. Symptoms of these chronic disorders impose a tremendous burden on those afflicted, as well as their families, diminishing quality of life and productivity levels, while also having significant social and economic impacts on society.

Learn more about the IFFGD.

(This article was adapted from a news release produced by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.)