A new $7.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help five Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists jump-start new projects over the next five years, support institutional core facilities, and pay for renovations to an animal facility.
The funding will allow scientists to create an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence at OMRF.
The IDeA program builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research, faculty development, and infrastructure improvements.
OMRF researcher Linda Thompson, Ph.D., heads the project, which aims to give junior investigators startup funds for innovative research and to support core facilities that are important for the institution as a whole.
“This is an important grant for a couple of reasons,” said Thompson, who holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. “Federal research dollars are harder and harder to come by, which means scientists who are just starting out have a difficult time getting funding for new and cutting-edge ideas.
“A COBRE (Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence) grant like this is also a stamp of approval in some ways. It says that OMRF has gathered an impressive group of up-and-coming researchers and that their projects could prove instrumental in improving human health,” she said.
Other OMRF researchers involved in the grant:
• Hui-Ying Lim, Ph.D., is investigating the essential role of free radical signaling in proper heart development and function using fruit flies.
• Lorin Olson, Ph.D., wants to understand how a signaling by the protein PDFG (platelet derived growth factor) plays a role in the body's healing process and a kind of scarring called fibrosis.
• Roberto Pezza, Ph.D., is studying how chromosomes are separated during the formation of gametes and how errors in the recombination of DNA that occurs during the process can lead to birth defects.
• Chris Sansam, Ph.D., uses zebrafish to study how cells respond to DNA damage. His studies could be the key to understanding how chemotherapy affects noncancerous cells and what can go wrong during embryonic development.
• Weidong Wang, Ph.D., is trying to develop a way to transform skin cells into insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells, which could be transplanted into patients to combat diabetes.
• Jonathan Wren, Ph.D., will head a new Bioinformatics and Pathways Core which will assist the investigators with novel tools for data analysis and hypothesis testing.
“This COBRE will foster research in developmental biology, improve Oklahoma's research infrastructure and address the health needs of the state's residents, including those in rural and medically underserved communities,” said Fred Taylor, Ph.D., an IDeA program official at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The grant will provide funding to scientists each year for up to five years, though if a researcher garners new grants, they can be phased out of the COBRE to make room for another junior investigator, Thompson said.
Research reported in this release was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM12345.
Greg Elwell is a Public Affairs Specialist at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.