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Wyoming INBRE Receives $17.4 Million NIH Grant for Biomedical Research and Education

November 3, 2015
two women working in a lab
Kelsea Zukauckas, left, an INBRE Transition Fellow from Cheyenne, and Amy Navratil, an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, perform tissue culture of gonadotrope cells to study the cell signaling pathways involved in the regulation of fertility. The research is among many INBRE-supported projects at UW. (UW Photo)

Biomedical research and education in Wyoming will be strengthened by a $17.4 million grant awarded to the University of Wyoming from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program will receive a five-year grant, marking the third time UW has received such an award. The funding will allow Wyoming INBRE to continue to support projects that focus on health issues important to rural residents, with an emphasis on cardiometabolic diseases and technology for chronic disease research and therapeutics.

“Building on previous NIH support for Wyoming INBRE and working with the UW Science Initiative, Wyoming EPSCoR and other STEM-focused programs, INBRE 3 is poised to contribute to the enhancement of STEM education and research in Wyoming and, in particular, the opportunities for biomedical-related education, training and research at UW and Wyoming community colleges,” says Scott Seville, Wyoming INBRE program coordinator and associate dean in the Outreach School.

For the next five years, Wyoming INBRE aims to:

-- Continue to build on the established multidisciplinary research network with scientific foci that will build and strengthen biomedical research expertise and infrastructure at UW and its partner institutions (Wyoming community colleges and UW-Casper).

-- Build and increase the research base and capacity of the university and its partner institutions by providing research support to faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. 

-- Provide research opportunities for undergraduate students that will create a pipeline for them to continue in health research careers within Institutional Development Award (IDeA)

-- Enhance the science and technology knowledge of the state's workforce.

-- Expand Wyoming research opportunities across the Western IDeA Region.

To accomplish these goals, Wyoming INBRE will support some existing programs and develop new initiatives. The NIH award will continue to fund programs at UW -- including the Wyoming INBRE Thematic Research Project and the Pilot Research Project grants -- to help faculty develop biomedical-related research projects. During the INBRE 2 funding cycle, 14 thematic research projects and 10 pilot projects were supported. Additionally, 10 project investigators -- seven junior faculty members and three postdoctoral researchers -- obtained significant external grant awards for the work originally supported by Wyoming INBRE.

Graduate assistantship awards and undergraduate research fellowships will be available to students working in biomedical fields or conducting biomedical-related research.

The funding also will provide opportunities for research and education collaborations between Wyoming community colleges and UW. Through a collaborative grant program, undergraduate students will have opportunities to conduct high-quality research and transition to UW to pursue their bachelor’s degrees. Another program, the Wyoming INBRE Transition Fellows Program, will continue to offer two years of support for community college students who transfer to UW to obtain their bachelor’s degrees in biomedical-related disciplines.

Working together and with support from Wyoming INBRE, Wyoming community college and UW faculty members have created opportunities for undergraduate students across Wyoming to get advanced training and experiences in classes -- and work on biomedical-oriented projects on their home campuses, leading to biomedical-related degree programs, Seville says.

“Hundreds of Wyoming students have accessed these opportunities and are progressing through their undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs, with many already in the biomedical workforce as college researchers, working in the private sector, and as allied health and medical practitioners,” he says.

Additionally, the funding will continue to have an economic impact in Wyoming.

According to a 2013 report, titled “Evaluating the Impact of INBRE Funding on Wyoming’s Economy” by UW economist Anne Alexander, “INBRE has advanced and will continue to enhance Wyoming’s human capital in two ways. The educational and outreach components of the funding mean that more Wyoming workers will be educated and better skilled in higher-level analysis and scientific literacy. Whether those who take advantage of the outreach and education end up as life scientists or biomedical engineers, or whether they simply learn more about biosciences, they will have higher quality human capital. As such, INBRE has directly increased the economic development potential of Wyoming.”

The report also notes, “INBRE also has enhanced human capital indirectly in Wyoming by means of those who will ultimately pursue bioscience careers. Those people, depending on their exact career path, will likely be able to enhance the health -- and thus human capital -- of Wyoming citizens by treating, diagnosing and preventing ailments, and by creating ideas and knowledge that will improve health and quality of life.”

Wyoming, with UW as the lead institution, is one of 23 states and Puerto Rico funded by the NIH INBRE program. UW received its first INBRE award, totaling $13 million, in 2004. The university received a $16.9 million award to fund INBRE 2 in 2009. The total of the three INBRE awards to UW is more than $47 million.

For more information about Wyoming INBRE, contact Program Director Jun Ren at jren@uwyo.edu or Seville at sseville@uwyo.edu, or visit www.uwyo.edu/wyominginbre.


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