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National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Joyce McDonald, NCRR

NIH Awards $19 Million to University of Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska — The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today it will award two grants, totaling $19.2 million, to the University of Alaska to augment and strengthen the institution’s infrastructure and increase its capacity to conduct cutting-edge biomedical research. NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. made the announcement at a news conference on the Fairbanks campus. The grants were awarded under NIH’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program.

“The IDeA Program awards provide unprecedented opportunities for the university to enhance its research infrastructure, as well as to create networks and partnerships within the state to develop collaborative scientific projects that benefit all the people of Alaska,” said Zerhouni. “These awards represent the outcome of a competitive, peer-reviewed process aimed at improving the biomedical research capacity throughout the United States.”

Under the first grant, awarded for $17.46 million over 5 years and called an IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), the university will support promising new faculty members; provide access to biomedical resources for faculty and students at primarily undergraduate universities; recruit students into biomedical research careers; and provide outreach programs for Alaska colleges. Dr. George Happ, Ph.D., Research Professor at the university’s Institute of Arctic Biology, serves as the principal investigator for the grant.

The scientific themes of the INBRE grant are multidisciplinary, supporting studies focused on molecular toxicology of subsistence species (wildlife and fish species that form the traditional food base for Native Alaskans) and an emerging focus on infectious agents, including zoonotic diseases. The INBRE will establish a statewide, integrated biomedical and bioinformatics network focused on environmental health research.

NIH also is announcing today the award of $1.75 million for the fourth year of an IDeA grant called a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). (The total funding for the 5-year award, which began in 2001, is $10.86 million.) Under the COBRE grant, the university is developing a multidisciplinary Center for Alaska Native Health Research, which focuses on genetic, dietary, and cultural-behavioral studies related to weight, nutrition, and health of specific Alaska Native villages. Gerald Mohatt, Ed.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Alaska Native Health Research, serves as the principal investigator for the grant.

The goal of the IDeA program, established by NIH in 1993, is to foster biomedical and behavioral research and increase the research capacity at institutes and institutions located in states with an historically small number of NIH grant awards, reflecting their low representation of research grant applications submitted to NIH each year. The most likely factor for their low participation rate is that there are fewer scientists trained to conduct health-related research in the IDeA-eligible states. The program, administered by the National Center for Research Resources, a component of NIH, is designed to address the lack of adequate infrastructure and too few competitive investigators in the IDeA states.

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