University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Professor Charles O’Brien, Ph.D., has been awarded $11.3 million in federal funds over five years to launch the Center For Musculoskeletal Disease Research.
The Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant is from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The program will create a “multidisciplinary, collaborative and synergistic” research center. The program is geared toward states with lower rates of federal research funding, according to a news release.
“What this funding will allow us to do is bring together a diverse group of investigators who can work as a team that is more than the sum of the parts,” O’Brien, a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine-Endocrinology in the College of Medicine, said in a news release. “The COBRE approach is a proven model. Its participants are more likely to obtain independent federal funding, and it serves as a springboard for innovative, quality research.”
The $11.3 million represents Phase 1 of the COBRE grant in direct and indirect costs, according to the release. It will support the research of four UAMS faculty who are early in their careers and have yet to secure independent research funding. With approval, COBRE grants can be renewed for up to three phases — representing up to $30 million in funding and support for numerous junior investigators.
Each COBRE center is organized around a theme, in this case, musculoskeletal disease. Although the participants in Phase I of O’Brien’s COBRE come from different disciplines, they are all interested in bone health.
Elena Ambrogini, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Internal Medicine-Endocrinology, is studying the association between atherosclerosis and osteoporosis and a therapy that could target both diseases; Jinhu Xiong, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, is studying the mechanics behind how exercise improves bone health; Niels Weinhold, Ph.D., of the Myeloma Institute, is studying why some forms of myeloma (cancer that develops in the bone marrow) are more aggressive than others; and Srividhya Iyer, Ph.D., of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, is studying how different cellular stress pathways are important for issues like low bone mass.
They each receive funding for their research, and are supported by existing technology at UAMS, according to the release. The grant can fund additional technology purchases, if needed.
They are exposed to mentoring and networking opportunities in several ways: from senior UAMS faculty, from each other during periodic workgroup sessions, and from distinguished outside speakers invited to UAMS on a regular basis.
They also receive detailed help applying for their own research funding. Once they secure a certain level of funding — an NIH Research Project Grant (R01) or similar level — they are considered “graduated” from the COBRE and their spot is opened to make room for another junior researcher.