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NIH Awards $16.9 Million for Biomedical Research and Education at UW
October 1, 2009 — Cardiovascular, obesity and diabetes research and education in Wyoming will be bolstered by the largest single research grant ever awarded to the University of Wyoming -- $16.9 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The award funds the Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program. The five-year research program will focus on diseases that are among the leading causes of death and high health care costs in the United States and that are significant health issues in Wyoming, says Bill Gern, UW's vice president for research and economic development.
"This effort will result in better training for our students who will contribute to better quality health care in Wyoming and beyond," Gern says. "It will generate student interest in biomedical fields and highlight our research strengths in these areas."
Wyoming's success in gaining the competitive grant award recognizes UW's advances in developing a strong biomedical research infrastructure and in hiring and developing excellent faculty that will be able to compete for and secure independent funding, Gern says.
Previous NIH awards paved the way for the INBRE grant by funding the purchase of new equipment, such as a state-of-the-art microscopy facility, and attracting faculty with international expertise in biomedical research. Junior faculty will be mentored by experienced researchers who have been successful in obtaining grants.
"The acquisition of essential biomedical personnel and equipment has allowed the university to continue to set new research funding records, train more graduate students and involve undergraduate students from UW and state community colleges in the research," Gern says.
Jun Ren, associate dean for research in the College of Health Sciences and professor of pharmacology, directs the INBRE program. Scott Seville, associate dean in the Outreach School and associate professor of zoology and physiology, and Heywood Sawyer, a research professor in the School of Pharmacy, are the program's coordinators. Seville oversees INBRE's undergraduate education and mentoring program at UW and all seven Wyoming community colleges.
By pairing undergraduate students with leading biomedical researchers, the goal is that Wyoming students, with the help of INBRE, will assist in finding solutions to Wyoming's health problems, Seville says. He adds that the program allows community college researchers to partner with UW scientists.
"The grant allows us to pursue our long-term goal to establish a statewide network for biomedical education and research," Seville says. Ren adds, "Additionally, we will partner with INBRE colleagues in surrounding states when appropriate, providing for an even stronger research capacity."
Ren outlines the goals of the new INBRE program:
-- Establish a multi disciplinary research network with scientific focus that will build and strengthen biomedical research at UW and its partner institutions;
-- Provide research support to faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students;
-- Create a "pipeline" for undergraduate students at UW and Wyoming community colleges to continue health research careers;
-- Provide outreach activities for UW students and the community colleges that are part of the university's INBRE network;
-- Enhance science and technology knowledge of the state's workforce; and
-- Expand Wyoming research opportunities across the region.
The new five-year grant is from NIH's Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program. Established in 1993, the program's goal is to foster biomedical and behavioral research and increase research capacity at institutes and institutions located in states with a historically small number of NIH grant awards. IDeA grants are administered by the National Center for Research Resources, a component of NIH.
In 2001, UW received a $6 million three-year award from IDeA's Biomedical Research Infrastructure Networks (BRIN) program -- the predecessor to the INBRE program -- to bolster biomedical research infrastructure.
UW received its first INBRE award in 2004, a $13 million, five-year NIH grant. Total of the BRIN and two INBRE awards to UW is nearly $36 million.
Heart Research -- Asli Ceylan-Isik, left, and Heng Ma, M.D., both INBRE junior researchers, study aging-induced risk of heart attacks in a University of Wyoming cardiovascular laboratory. This is among many INBRE-supported projects at UW focusing on diseases that are among the leading causes of death and high health care costs in the United States. Ma also holds the only American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship in Wyoming.