$19 Million to Fight Cancer, Expand Neuroscience

pharmaThe University of Rhode Island has received $18.8 million in federal funding to continue an initiative that has successfully expanded biomedical research capacity at nearly all of Rhode Island’s universities and colleges. This next phase of funding will focus on the interrelated research areas of cancer, neuroscience and molecular toxicology. It will support 27 projects, including using nanoparticles to deliver anti-cancer drugs to lung cancer patients and examining the effectiveness of using plant materials to combat stomach cancer.
Since 2001, the Rhode Island IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (RI-INBRE ) has been funded by the National Institutes of Health with $42 million in grants to URI as the lead institution, partnering with Brown University, Rhode Island College, Providence College, Bryant University, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University. The Community College of Rhode Island is an affiliate of the network, and its students participate in research opportunities at URI.
The program has financially supported and mentored more than 100 faculty members, established a $4 million research equipment facility at URI’s College of Pharmacy for Rhode Island’s biomedical researchers to carry out cutting-edge research, and provided more than 1,000 students and postdoctoral fellows with research training in faculty laboratories.
“Students from this program have gone on to obtain post-graduate degrees and many are employed at universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical and engineering companies,” says Zahir Shaikh, URI professor of pharmacology and toxicology and principal investigator on the project.
Shaikh and Program Coordinator David Rowley, URI professor of biomedical sciences at the College of Pharmacy, explain how the recent grant renewal allows the network to expand. “We have changed the culture at our partner undergraduate institutions,” says Shaikh. “All of these institutions are now hiring new science faculty in such areas as biology, chemistry and psychology with biomedically-related research experiences in order to benefit from the RI-INBRE program. They have also augmented their research support staff to facilitate increased research activity by their faculty.”
RI-INBRE-supported researchers so far have obtained an additional $47 million in independent funding to further increase biomedical research capacity. “We are now putting the focus on disease states, like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases,” Shaikh says.
“Neuroscience and cancer are not just priorities for us at URI,” Rowley says. “They are research priorities for Rhode Island and the nation. This will continue to be a capacity building grant, and it will catalyze the growth and competitiveness of investigators.”