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John E. Fogarty International Center for
Advanced Study in the Health Sciences (FIC)


For Immediate Release
Monday, May 4, 2009


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Jeff Gray
Fogarty International Center
301-402-6680

NIH Awards New Grants to Fund International Research Collaborations

The Fogarty International Center, part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced it will award approximately $537,000 over three years to fund international research collaboration at five universities. Fogarty International Research Collaboration Award (FIRCA) grants are given jointly to an NIH-supported investigator and an overseas collaborator in a low- and middle-income country, with the financial support going to the foreign collaborator. The FIRCA program is intended to benefit the research interests of both collaborators while increasing research capacity at the foreign site.

Each institution will receive between $33,000 and $41,000 annually over three years. The new grants aim to increase access to emerging research techniques and capabilities, and unique populations and environments. Four of the new grants are going to U.S. institutions, while a fifth will go directly to a foreign institution, the University of Chile. The five new grants will support research on a wide range of public health issues including obesity, chronic mountain sickness, dengue fever and central nervous system injuries.

"Collaboration has always been an essential component of effective global heath research," said Fogarty Director Roger I. Glass, M.D, Ph.D. "These newest FIRCA awards continue this trend, providing an enormous opportunity for the international exchange of methods, information and perspectives as well as creating career opportunities for scientists in their home countries."

2009 Fogarty International Research Collaboration Award Grantees:

  • University of California, San Diego and Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • University of Chile, Santiago, Chile and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Instituto Leloir, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana and University of Pune, Maharashtra, India
  • Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. and Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia

University of Michigan’s FIRCA award will support research at a newly established lab in Argentina examining CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins, heterochromatin and their relationship to adipogenesis, the formation of fat cells. Heterochromatin is tightly coiled chromosomal material while CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins are a family of transcription factors. An increased understanding of the role of both components in adipogenesis will contribute to the development of new therapeutic strategies for obesity. Obesity, diabetes and related disorders are among the most prevalent health problems in the world.

Midgut bacteria in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will be the focus of the study funded by the FIRCA award at the University of Notre Dame, with the research to be carried out primarily in India at the University of Pune. The proposed research will provide new information regarding the influence of midgut bacteria on the biology of the mosquito, including the ability to support and transmit the dengue virus to humans. With no existing vaccine to counter it, dengue is a threat to 2.5 billion people, with estimates of 50 million cases of dengue fever each year.

Wake Forest University’s newest FIRCA award will fund research focused on the perinatal origins of chronic mountain sickness (CMS). CMS is a common but poorly understood disorder that affects up to 10 million people worldwide and can result in death from pulmonary hypertension and heart failure. A major public health problem in the highland regions of South America, it has no known remedy except descent to lower altitudes. The proposed studies will seek to determine whether CMS has origins in the period immediately before and after birth and if so, more effective treatments can be designed to cure and ultimately prevent this disorder.

The FIRCA grant awarded to the University of California, San Diego will support a study on functions in the NFkB-IkB system. NFkB-IkB is a family of proteins involved in the control of a large number of normal cellular and organismal processes, such as immune and inflammatory responses, developmental processes and cellular growth. Additionally, these factors are persistently active in a number of disease states, including cancer, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, AIDS and viral infections.

The University of Chile is the sole foreign institution receiving a direct FIRCA grant, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill acting as the U.S. collaborator. The grant will be applied toward studies of the interaction of neurons and astrocytes, which are cells that provide structural support for nerve cells. The interactions between astrocytes and neurons play a critical role in neural injury and repair, however the specific molecular mechanisms that mediate the bidirectional signals between these cell types are still poorly understood. These studies could provide valuable insights into fundamental mechanisms of brain physiology and pathology that involve astrocyte-neuron interactions.

Participating with the Fogarty Center in supporting the awards are the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

For more information, see the Web site for the FIRCA Program at: http://www.fic.nih.gov/programs/research_grants/firca/index.htm

Fogarty, the international component of the NIH, addresses global health challenges through innovative and collaborative research and training programs and supports and advances the NIH mission through international partnerships. For more information, visit: www.fic.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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