By AFRO Staff
Morgan State University has secured a total of $35 million in new grant awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research.
The funding will be used to advance research being primarily conducted by faculty and students in the School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (SCMNS), chiefly through continued support of the ASCEND program and the establishment of a new university center to reduce urban health disparities. The remaining grant resources will be allocated to support a variety of other important research initiatives emanating from the School’s Departments of Biology and Chemistry.
University’s School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences to Use NIH Funds to Advance Multiple Research Initiatives
“As Maryland’s preeminent public urban research university, having a mutually beneficial relationship with an organization such as the National Institutes of Health opens the doors to opportunities and resources without which we would not be able to progress in our mission,” said Morgan State University President David Wilson.
“Knowing that adequate resources are available is central to effectively evaluating what ails our urban population areas and putting forth the solutions to their challenges. These grants place our brilliant students and faculty in a better position to do the hard work required of a high-research university.”
The largest NIH grant received in this latest group of awards is in the amount of $16.9 million and will be used to fund the second phase of the NIH Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) grant program, or ASCEND as it is known on the campus of Morgan. ASCEND, which is an acronym for “A Student-Centered, Entrepreneurship Development,” is designed to train a diverse cadre of biomedical research leaders. The program takes a unique approach to preparing undergraduate students for entering the biomedical research workforce by providing them with leadership opportunities in the early stages of their research and encouraging the exchange of ideas. The first phase of ASCEND received $23.3 million in NIH funding, bringing the total to more than $40 million to date.
“The grant awards we have received were made possible by the collaboration of more than 25 hardworking faculty and staff members committed to bringing in the resources needed for these important research initiatives,” said Hongtao Yu, Ph.D., dean of the School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences. “And while each individual grant supports a unique project, they are also complementary and multidisciplinary. The ASCEND, RISE and IRACDA programs will focus on training of the biomedical workforce, while RCMI and SCORE, and to some extent ASCEND, address basic and behavioral biomedical research related to urban health and health disparities.”
NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) awarded Morgan $14.2 million to establish a center for Urban Health Disparities Research and Innovation, henceforth to be known as RCMI@Morgan. Through RCMI@Morgan, the university will conduct research that develops solutions to enhance health for all citizens of Baltimore, but with an emphasis on eliminating health disparities between minority populations and others throughout the city. The center will look to build a robust infrastructure to support both laboratory-based and behavioral biomedical research for students and faculty. Its initial projects will focus on HIV/HCV disparities, smoking cessation and gene expression associated with poverty, all critical health issues affecting Baltimore. Faculty members from Morgan’s School of Community Health and Policy and College of Liberal Arts will also be involved in both the RCMI@Morgan and ASCEND research projects.
The remaining $3.7 million in NIH grants will be instrumental in funding other research initiatives housed within the SCMNS Biology and Chemistry Departments. These projects include the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), Support of Competitive Research Excellence (SCORE), and Institutional Research and Career Development Awards (IRACDA), a joint initiative with The Johns Hopkins University. Additional research will focus on Impacts of Sarcomeric Protein Phosphorylation on Ischemic Hearts.
“Grants of this nature and size from a world-renowned agency such as the National Institutes of Health will only solidify Morgan’s status as a Carnegie-classified ‘high research’ institution and significantly increase research opportunities for both our faculty and students,” said Willie E. May, Ph.D., vice president for Research and Economic Development at Morgan State University. “Building on this foundation, we will continue our efforts and work toward obtaining similar results from other federal agencies such as the Departments of Commerce, Defense and Energy, in order to meet our annual goal, set by President Wilson, of securing $50 million per year in sponsored research income within the next few years.”
Worldwide NIH has invested more than $32 billion a year to enhance life and reduce illness and disability. NIH-funded research has led to breakthroughs and new treatments, helping people live longer, healthier lives and building the research foundation that drives discovery.
The School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (SCMNS) comprises five departments: Biology (including the Medical Technology Program), Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics (including the Actuarial Science Program) and Physics (including Engineering Physics). The school also offers three master’s degrees — Bioinformatics, Mathematics and Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) — and two Ph.D. degrees: Bioenvironmental Science and Industrial & Computational Mathematics. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive offering of programs that will educate and nurture the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and technologists while advancing the frontiers of science and technology through scientific research and innovation in service to local, regional and global communities.