The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center has received an $18.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand biomedical research for some of the most complex diseases and to develop the workforce to take that research into the future.
The grant is from the NIH’s Institutional Development Award program (IDeA), whose aim is to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding. This grant specifically focuses on cancer, diabetes and the development of new medical devices and treatments for patients.
While the OU Health Sciences Center leads the program, it is actually a statewide network of universities and colleges, as well as researchers from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Grant dollars not only advance existing research programs, but help to build a pipeline for the next generation of researchers and healthcare professionals through outreach to high school and college students.
“This grant represents a continuum. It allows us to advance cutting-edge research and build a better pipeline for improving health and decreasing healthcare disparities in our state,” said Darrin Akins, Ph.D., director of the Oklahoma IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (OK-INBRE).
“This grant enhances the number of students who go to college, choose a discipline in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and graduate with a STEM degree. Then we can mentor them as they go on to become health professionals or biomedical researchers,” said Akins, who is also a professor in the OU College of Medicine and associate director of education and training at Stephenson Cancer Center.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are providing an additional $250,000 per year to support the program.
The OU Health Sciences Center has successfully renewed the grant three times. Outcomes from previous grants show a significant return on investment. Achievements over the past five years include:
* Because of successful investigations made possible by OK-INBRE funding, researchers were awarded six NIH R01 grants, considered the gold standard in research funding. They received 22 other federal agency awards and 116 state or foundation awards.
* The OK-INBRE program provided $3 million in infrastructure development to its 17 partner institutions across Oklahoma, such as lab equipment and research opportunities for faculty and students.
* Since its inception, OK-INBRE has facilitated summer hands-on research experiences at the OU Health Sciences Center and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation for more than 500 students. Of those, 95 percent have gone on to earn a STEM degree, and 60 percent have continued to graduate or professional school.
* The dean of the College of Mathematics and Science at the University of Central Oklahoma, Wei Chen, Ph.D., leveraged his OK-INBRE funding to earn an R01 award from the NIH, the first ever received by a regional university in Oklahoma.
* The OK-INBRE award, combined with additional grants generated by researchers over the past five years, has resulted in an $86 million economic impact to the state.