The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation a $9.16 million grant to train junior scientists and build research infrastructure at OMRF. The five-year award will fund the work of five junior scientists and provide operating support for core facilities at the foundation.
“This is yet another important step in the emergence of Oklahoma as a center of research excellence,” said J. Donald Capra, M.D., OMRF’s president and the principal investigator on the grant. “With support for young researchers and infrastructure, OMRF can build a core of scientists and facilities that will sustain our state’s biomedical enterprise for generations to come.”
The grant was awarded under the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program, which helps build research infrastructure to enhance institutions’ research capacity and competitiveness for National Institutes of Health grants. It is a renewal of a previous five-year grant awarded to Capra and OMRF in 2000.
The most recent grant will be used to mentor five junior researchers at OMRF. The scientists will work on a variety of different research projects, all focusing on immunology. Individual projects will look at the genetics of the autoimmune disease lupus, the functioning of B cells (which play a central role in producing the infection-fighting proteins known as antibodies), and ways to predict and monitor rheumatoid arthritis.
One particularly intriguing project will be led by WanPin Chang, Ph.D. She will study whether immunization with a certain enzyme (beta secretase, which was discovered at OMRF by Jordan Tang, Ph.D.) might alleviate or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Under the grant, four senior OMRF scientists will serve as mentors to the junior researchers. The grant will also provide support for five state-of-the-art core facilities located at OMRF—imaging, microarray, microinjection, peptide synthesis and signal transduction. It will also provide funds to assist in the recruitment of additional faculty members.
The overall aim of the grant, said Capra, is two-fold. “First, we want to learn more about the human immune system and ways in which to protect our bodies from a wide range of diseases. And just as importantly, we want to help a group of promising researchers become successful, independent investigators.”
This latter goal, said Capra, is crucial to Oklahoma’s future. “If we’re going to compete with states on the East and West Coast for National Institutes of Health dollars, we have to develop a critical mass of talented, well-funded scientists. This grant helps us to do just that.”
The scientists whose work will be funded by the grant are:
J. Donald Capra, M.D.
John Harley, M.D., Ph.D.
Judith James, M.D., Ph.D.
Morris Reichlin, M.D.
Jordan Tang, Ph.D.
Michael Centola, Ph.D.
WanPin Chang, Ph.D.
Stephen Jackson, Ph.D.
William Rodgers, Ph.D.
Amr Sawalha, M.D.
Core Facility Directors:
K. Mark Coggeshall, Ph.D.
Michael Dresser, M.D., Ph.D.
Ute Hochgeschwender, M.D.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and curing human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. OMRF is home to Oklahoma’s only member of the National Academy of Sciences.