State receives $16 million for biomedical research
Ten colleges and universities in the state, including the University of South Carolina, have received $16 million to support a network to develop biomedical-research programs in areas such as regenerative medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology.
The funding comes from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a division of the National Institutes of Health. The grant will provide five years of funding for SC INBRE (the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence), a network of academic institutions working together to enhance biomedical-research infrastructure and increase competitiveness of researchers in the state. It is the continuation of a $17 million grant received five years ago.
The network comprises the state’s three comprehensive research institutions (USC, Clemson and the Medical University of South Carolina) and seven predominantly undergraduate institutions (Claflin University, the College of Charleston, Francis Marion University, Furman University, South Carolina State University, USC-Beaufort and Winthrop University).
“The key to this is developing a research environment and growing research at undergraduate institutions in order to provide research training for students in biomedical science,” said Dr. Lucia Pirisi-Creek of USC’s School of Medicine, the grant’s lead investigator.
SC INBRE will support at least 28 different research projects, each led by a junior “target” faculty member at one of the network institutions. During the five years of funding, six institutions will hire 10 new faculty members who will bring new biomedical research expertise to the state. Projects include the investigation of nanoparticles that may improve treatment of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, stroke or brain cancer; the role of plaque in weakened arteries and how it leads to heart attacks and stroke; and the study of dysfunctional cells in the most prevalent form of epilepsy.
SC INBRE target faculty will receive financial support for their research programs and work with senior faculty mentors across the network who help the faculty develop both their research programs and their academic careers. Participating undergraduate and graduate students work with faculty mentors who guide the development of these students’ research projects and advise the students on graduate school and scientific career options.
SC INBRE will also help renovate biomedical-engineering research labs for students and faculty at USC’s College of Engineering and Computing, where the recently established biomedical-engineering degree program needs space and upgrades to allow the program to expand.
The program will also support a bioinformatics core that will fund pilot projects, provide bioinformatics services to network investigators, and organize courses, seminars and symposia to promote the application of bioinformatics to research across the network. Bioinformatics is the application of statistics and computer science to the field of molecular biology.
In addition, the administrative core of SC INBRE will continue to organize and manage the Postdoctoral Academic Career Development (PACD) program, which provides support to postdoctoral fellows who engage in both research and teaching activities across the network.
“The success of SC INBRE hinges on the enthusiastic cooperation and the hard work of a large team of dedicated individuals,” Pirisi-Creek said. “I am very grateful for the unwavering support I received from this large and diverse team during the past four years, the last one in particular. I look forward to five more years of exciting initiatives, expanded opportunities for research, training and increased collaboration and diversity within the network.”
About SC EPSCoR/IDeA
The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) are federal-state-university partnerships designed to increase research capacity and competitiveness for federal research and development funds. Since 1990, SC EPSCoR/IDeA funds have enabled the hiring of 102 junior, tenure-track faculty members in science and technology at South Carolina’s colleges and universities. SC EPSCoR/IDeA has supported research in disciplines such as biomedical engineering; neuroscience; alternative energy; nanomaterials; structural, chemical, and cellular biology; and environmental science, bringing more than $185 million in federal research funding to the state.
About the researchers
Principal Investigator/Program Director: Dr. Lucia A. Pirisi-Creek, professor, USC School of Medicine
Program Coordinator: Dr. Scott Little, director, SC EPSCoR/IDeA Office
Institutional Principal Investigators
USC: Dr. Wayne Carver, associate professor, department of cell and developmental biology and anatomy, School of Medicine
MUSC: Dr. Roger Markwald, chair, department of regenerative medicine and cell biology
Clemson University: Dr. Larry Dooley, associate dean of engineering and science for research and graduate studies
Claflin University: Dr. Angela Peters, professor and chair, department of chemistry
College of Charleston: Dr. James Deavor, professor and associate dean of the School of Science and Mathematics
Francis Marion University: Dr. Peter King, professor and chair, department of biology
Furman University: Dr. John Wheeler, professor, department of chemistry
South Carolina State University: Dr. Judith Salley, professor and chair, department of biological and physical sciences
USC Beaufort: Dr. Jane Upshaw, chancellor, and Dr. Charles Keith, professor and chair, department of science and mathematics.
Winthrop University: Dr. Pat Owens, professor and chair, department of chemistry
Postdoctoral Academic Career Development award (PACD) program director: Dr. Edward L. Krug, associate professor of regenerative medicine and cell biology, MUSC
Bioinformatics core director: Dr. Homayoun Valafar, associate professor of computer science and engineering, College of Engineering and Computing, USC
Breakdown of funding for SC INBRE
The University of South Carolina will receive approximately $4 million of the total $16 million award and will be responsible for providing the management structure and access to core laboratory, computational facilities and bioinformatics to the nine partner institutions. USC’s component of SC INBRE also supports the biomedical engineering program at the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering and Computing.
With just about $1 million each, Claflin and South Carolina State universities will expand their biochemistry faculty and train undergraduate and graduate students in their nascent MS in biotechnology program and biomedical research programs, respectively.
Winthrop and Francis Marion universities, receiving about $2.6 and $1.5 million respectively, will focus their efforts on the graduation and matriculation of significant numbers of undergraduate students into graduate programs in the biomedical sciences.
The College of Charleston and USC-Beaufort, each receiving about $1 million, will hire new faculty in neurobiology, chemical biology and structural biology and increase opportunities for minority students in the biomedical sciences.
Clemson University, receiving $1.1 million, will train researchers in bioengineering translational research through close interaction with Greenville Hospital System physicians.
Furman University, with $2.2 million, will further expand its research and training programs in neuroscience, and significantly augment its outreach to K-12 students for the recruitment of young people into the biomedical sciences.
The Medical University of South Carolina, with an award of $1 million, will provide access to the network of institutions to their nationally-recognized facilities for cell culturing and proteogenomics, as well as provide direct support to individual target faculty in regenerative medicine.