The National Institutes of Health has awarded OMRF three new grants totaling $5.1 million. The awards will fund research initiatives in cancer, influenza and lupus.
“These are three important, Oklahoma-grown ideas with disease relevance, so this is a tremendous achievement for us,” said OMRF Vice President of Research Paul Kincade, Ph.D. “The grants represent fresh ideas that our scientists have developed over the past few years.”
With a $1.3 million, four-year award, Gary Gorbsky, Ph.D., will study cell division with the goal of understanding how certain delays in the process can contribute to chromosome instability. Gorbsky’s aim is to discover if the stall in this cell-splitting process is generating cells with the wrong number of chromosomes, which likely leads to increased malignancy and resistance to therapy in cancer.
Susan Kovats, Ph.D., received a four-year, $1.7 million grant to study dendritic cells, a key component of the body’s immune system. The project will look at how dendritic cells in the lungs react to the influenza virus, an illness that kills an estimated 23,000 Americans each year. Her findings may help steer the development of new vaccine strategies.
“Dendritic cells are the immune system’s ‘first responders,’” said Kovats. “This study will provide in-depth information on how these cells respond to invaders like the flu virus and how they impact the ways other cells respond afterward.”
A five-year grant awarded to Swapan Nath, Ph.D., will fund a specialized project in health disparities in minority populations, specifically African-Americans, stemming from the disease lupus.
Lupus affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, but it strikes African-Americans at rates 3-5 times higher than the white population. Nath received the $2.1 million grant to study how individual ancestry and genetic variations in the genes could contribute to this disparity.
Kincade emphasized that the three new grants stand as a testament to the quality of biomedical research in Oklahoma. “Our competition for these funds includes Stanford, Harvard and other major institutions around the U.S.,” he said. “So to successfully compete for these awards is a big deal.”
The three new grants are: No. 1R01GM111731-01 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; No. 1R01HL119501-01A1 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and No. 1R01MD007909-01A1 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, all parts of the NIH.