Kansas IDeA Network lands $18.5 million grant to aid bioscience infrastructure


From Oread
By Oread

The Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, known as K-INBRE, headquartered at the KU Medical Center, has received an $18.5 million National Institutes of Health grant that will continue to promote the building of bioscience infrastructure in Kansas. The grant brings the total NIH awards for K-INBRE to $44.2 million. In addition to NIH support, Medical Center, KU, Kansas State University and Wichita State University, as well as the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation and KansasBio, have provided funds for faculty and student research projects.

K-INBRE, which was established in 2001, is designed to improve the ability of Kansas researchers to compete effectively for NIH funds by building a "critical mass" of junior and senior biomedical investigators. Within the area of cell and developmental biology, K-INBRE provides financial support for undergraduates ready for research experiences, their mentors and junior and senior investigators, and encourages the development of cutting-edge biomedical research technology. The program is a multi-campus effort with collaborations among researchers at at the Medical Center, lead campus, Lawrence campus, Kansas State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, Langston University (Oklahoma), Pittsburg State University, Washburn University and Wichita State University.

The K-INBRE program comprises four basic cores: administrative, headed by Joan Hunt, principal investigator and director, Medical Center; bioinformatics, led by Gerry Lushington Lawrence campus; partnerships for translational research, directed by Dianne Durham, Medical Center; and communication, led by Peter Smith, Medical Center. Major undergraduate and post-doctoral committees are headed by Keith Chapes, K-State and Bob Cohen, KU.

The $18.5 million grant, awarded by the National Center for Research Resources at the NIH, will promote continued success of this multi-campus effort in encouraging undergraduates to consider biomedical careers, faculty to strengthen their biomedical research programs and both trainees and faculty to utilize bioinformatics approaches for data acquisition and analysis. This renewal provides funds for new efforts to support post-graduate trainees, stimulate translational research and apply systems biology to research projects.

"The nice thing about this new core is that it supports ongoing translational research initiatives in the state, such as the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation, the University of Kansas Cancer Center and the General Clinical Research Center," said Greg Kopf, executive director of the Research Institute at the Medical Center.

Through competitive grant processes, K-INBRE awards funds for undergraduate and graduate research and equipment for laboratories. Jim Orr, professor of molecular biosciences, said students greatly benefited from K-INBRE because they work one-on-one with faculty researchers.

"Any undergraduate who is able to conduct research alongside a faculty mentor will benefit, because they will have a stronger application to graduate or medical school," said Orr.

Because one major goal of the program is to provide for the educational development of students, Joan Hunt, University Distinguished Professor, vice chancellor for Biomedical Research Infrastructure and principal investigator of K-INBRE, said the grant will continue to contribute to the future of biological enterprises in the state. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that every $1 million in grants generates 40 jobs in Kansas, and Hunt remarked that biomedical research positions are highly desirable and well-paid, increasing the overall economic growth of Kansas.

"Higher education is vital to career development, and the K-INBRE grant permits us to foster the growth of new scientists who, we hope, will choose to pursue their research careers in Kansas," said Hunt.

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