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MU to manage $17M for research

May. 21, 2009 @ 10:35 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University has been awarded a second five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Center for Research Resources. The grant is worth more than $17 million, which Marshall will use to fund biomedical research at undergraduate institutions in West Virginia.

The funding is for the West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, which will allow for better communication among educators in the field of biomedicine in the state. Marshall manages the program.

"We have the opportunity to shape West Virginia and open doors and create opportunities for the future," said Dr. Gary Rankin, Marshall's chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology and principal investor for the grant.

He said the first segment of funding is about $3.64 million. Five major awards have been committed to faculty doing research at Alderson-Broaddus College, Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia State University and West Library State College.

Among the projects are cardiovascular disease, cancer treatments and the interaction of drugs with the body's enzymes.

There also are a number of smaller grants going to a variety of other educational institutions, including one at Concord University, where the researcher is looking for possible drugs in Appalachian plants.

"(This money) establishes research in colleges and universities around this state where research was never happening," Rankin said. "It will lead to more dollars going to these universities, which will create new jobs."

Rankin added that the $17 million worth of research has the potential to have a $60 million to $70 million impact on the West Virginia economy over the next five years. And that's on top of the estimated $60 million impact the previous five years of grant money should have had.

Marshall, in partnership with West Virginia University, received a Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network award in 2001 by the National Institute of Health to begin to build a collaborative effort to sponsor research at West Virginia undergraduate institutions. The National Center for Research Resources is a part of the National Institutes of Health that provides laboratory scientists and clinical researchers with the tools and training they need to understand, detect, treat and prevent a wide range of diseases.

Marshall President Stephen Kopp said the funds will help build biomedical research infrastructure across West Virginia and help attract more students to biomedical research career opportunities.

The program was started more than five years ago for 23 states and Puerto Rico, which were not getting their share of biomedical funding, Rankin said. Through this federal funding from the National Institute of Health, those states have the ability to create biomedical infrastructure.

"There's prestige (in Marshall managing the program)," Rankin added. "For Marshall University to have one of the 23 centers across the country is important for our recognition."

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