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By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $18.8 million to the Rhode Island Institutional Development Award Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, or INBRE, the largest federal award received by the program to date.
Led by the University of Rhode Island to expand statewide research capacity in the biomedical sciences, INBRE is the Rhode Island branch of a national program to improve research competitiveness in states with historically low success rates for NIH grant applications. The latest award is INBRE’s fourth, following an $8 million grant to establish the program in 2001 and two five-year renewals of $16 million and $18 million.
Zahir A. Shaikh, URI professor of pharmacology and toxicology and lead investigator at INBRE since its inception, said the $18.8 million grant renewal extending federal funding for INBRE through 2019 will allow the network to expand with a new focus on cancer, neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and molecular toxicology.
The NIH grant application for the award predates last November’s announcement that URI would establish the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience through alumnus Thomas M. Ryan’s $15 million gift, but URI spokesman Dave Lavallee said the university will leverage the resources of both INBRE and the Ryan Institute, as well as URI’s Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, to accelerate Rhode Island’s momentum in neurological research.
Since 2001, INBRE has financially supported and mentored more than 100 faculty members at its network institutions, which include Brown University, Rhode Island College, Providence College, Bryant University, Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University. So far, INBRE-supported researchers have obtained an additional $47 million in independent funding, URI said, including URI researcher Wei Lu, who earlier this year received a $1.3 million NIH award to study nanoparticle cancer treatments.
“We have changed the culture at our partner undergraduate institutions,” said Shaikh. “All of these institutions are now hiring new science faculty in such areas as biology, chemistry and psychology with biomedically-related research experiences in order to benefit from the RI-INBRE program. They have also augmented their research support staff to facilitate increased research activity by their faculty.”
In addition, more than 1,000 students and postdoctoral fellows have gained research training in faculty laboratories since the program’s beginning, Shaikh added.
“Through this important funding from the NIH, the University of Rhode Island will continue to strengthen the ‘meds and eds’ in our state,” said Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee in a statement. “I am pleased that the NIH continues to recognize the outstanding work of URI and I believe that we are well on our way to becoming a leader in the biomedical research field.”