Project Title: West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence
Principal Investigator: Gary O. Rankin
Marshall University (MU), in partnership with West Virginia University (VVVU), received a three-year NIH Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) planning grant in 2001, from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), to develop a statewide consortium to enhance biomedical research at WV undergraduate institutions. Over the past 8 years this program has continued with unprecedented NIH funding to help West Virginia overcome its historically low success rate in obtaining grant awards from the National Institutes of Health. In addition, it has enabled undergraduate institutions to foster a dynamic biomedical research culture among their faculty and students. The BRIN award allowed institutions to obtain funding for biomedical research equipment and pilot projects and established the summer research program for science faculty and students from predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs). The nine-week summer biomedical research experience allowed students and faculty the opportunity to work on a biomedical research project for nine weeks and present their results at the Summer Research Symposium held at MU or WVU on an alternating basis. Following BRIN, NIH established the IDEA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program to build on the foundation of the successes of the BRIN program.
West Virginia was successful in receiving an INBRE award in 2004 to establish the West Virginia INBRE (WV-INBRE) program as an extension of WV-BRIN. In WV-INBRE Phase I, MU and WVU continued their role as the lead institutions to a research network consisting of twelve undergraduate institutions. The multi-disciplinary research theme for this network is cellular and molecular biology with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease. Five undergraduate institutions with seven research projects were eventually identified as full Network Research Institutions (NRI), and seven institutions were designated as Network Outreach Institutions (NOIs). Collectively, together with the lead institutions, these schools comprised the heart of the WV-INBRE research network. Administrative, Bioinformatics and Outreach Cores were established to facilitate the research progress, mentoring and training, and career development of scientists and students at the NRIs and NOIs. The successful Appalachian Cardiovascular Research Network (ACoRN), developed during WV-BRIN to examine the genetic basis for cardiovascular disease in West Virginians, was expanded in scope. Programs were developed to provide research opportunities for undergraduate students that will serve as a pipeline into health related research careers. Significant outreach helped NOIs to enhance their potential to develop strong biomedical research programs. In addition, through providing numerous workshops, seminars from in-state and out-of-state scientists, research training and mentoring, and access to state-of-the-art core facilities, WV-INBRE has enhanced the science and technology knowledge base of the WV workforce.
In 2009, the WV-INBRE program received its Phase II competitive renewal for an additional five years of funding from the NCRR-based IDeA program. This Phase II award includes five major research projects at PUIs. We removed the designation of NRI and NOI and refer to all network PUIs as "Partner Institutions". MU and WVU remain as the lead institutions with Administrative, Bioinformatics and Genomic Cores providing support to the research network. Eventually, eight major PUI research projects will be supported by WV-INBRE. In addition to cardiovascular disease, cancer was added as an area on research emphasis. The Summer Research Program remains a strong and integral part of WV-INBRE Phase II, and the ACoRN program has been expanded into Kentucky for patient recruitment. In addition, stronger efforts have been made to interface WV-INBRE with the NCRR COBRE programs in West Virginia and to help graduates of the NIH funded WV Health Science Technology Academy (HSTA) program to continue their interactions with biomedical research by participating in WV-INBRE funded biomedical research projects at the PUIs. WV-INBRE will continue to provide workshops to obtain research and bioinformatics skills and opportunities for network participants to present their research at the national and international level. Also in 2009, four two-year administrative supplements to the WV-INBRE award were awarded to enhance the summer program, WV-INBRE-HSTA initiatives and begin two new biomedical research projects. Overall, WV-INBRE continues to grow and help provide research and training opportunities for its scientists and students.