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APRIL 24, 2009 - Oklahoma Receives $18 Million Award to Enhance Biomedical Research

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To promote the state’s capacity in biomedical research, Oklahoma has been awarded $18 million over five years from the National Institute of Health (NIH) Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program.

The IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) is one of the largest NIH grants ever awarded to Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will consider approval of an annual $500,000 match at their May 29, 2009, meeting. The award will contribute to medical research in the areas of cancer, microbiology and developmental biology.

“I am pleased that this grant has been provided to Oklahoma's colleges and research institutions. This funding will help our state become a hub for medical research and ensure that local students and faculty members have an opportunity to be a part of innovative research projects,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees NIH funding.

The NIH grant is a multi-institutional award that includes scientists from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, six regional universities and four community colleges in Oklahoma.

The award will be directed by Dr. Frank Waxman, principal investigator and Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) state director. Dr. Darrin Akins, OUHSC associate professor of microbiology and immunology, will serve as the grant’s co-director.

In addition to educational outreach initiatives aimed at K-12 public schools, the INBRE award will offer research opportunities for college faculty and undergraduate students. The award will also support activities such as a research experience program supporting more than 50 undergraduate students in the summer of 2009, a conference geared at encouraging women to consider careers in science, and a mini-medical school offering high school students a chance to experience being medical students for a day.

“The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are committed to keeping research a priority in Oklahoma,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “This award will enable Oklahoma researchers to continue working to find cures for diseases that affect so many people, not only in our state but throughout the world.”

Junior faculty investigators funded by the grant will receive mentoring from established researchers who will lead the young scientists in the development of their research careers. Faculty from INBRE regional universities are also eligible to apply for grants in collaboration with faculty from research institutions, as well as equipment grants and smaller independent research grants.

“Continued support for the training and quality education of young researchers and students in Oklahoma is critical in our quest to build a world-class research facility at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. This award is an important step in reaching that goal and we thank the National Institutes of Health and the State Regents for their confidence,” said Joseph J. Ferretti, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president at OUHSC.

Oklahoma INBRE also supports a bioinformatics network with a core facility at OUHSC. Bioinformatics is the science of understanding the expression of genes and proteins through advanced, computer-aided statistical analysis. The network is available to faculty at participating research-intensive as well as primarily undergraduate institutions.

The IDeA program is administered by the NIH National Center for Research Resources. EPSCoR and the NIH IDeA program are designed to expand research opportunities in states that have traditionally received less funding in federal support for university research. Oklahoma INBRE is a statewide network of colleges and universities with a mission to make Oklahoma researchers more successful in competing for research funding and provide opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in the exciting world of biomedical research.