Marshall faculty awarded $3 million in federal stimulus funds for biomedical research

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded five grants totaling $3 million to faculty members at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. The grants, awarded competitively through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will support biomedical research and workforce development programs.

Four of the funded projects are associated with the West Virginia-IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE).

According to Dr. Gary Rankin, chairman of the university’s Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology and WV-INBRE principal investigator, the awards will further the network’s efforts to build biomedical research infrastructure, develop research programs at the state’s undergraduate institutions, provide student research opportunities and train the state’s high-tech work force.

“These awards will allow more students and faculty members from the state’s undergraduate institutions, as well as high school science educators, to participate in biomedical research projects and gain valuable skills and experience,” Rankin said. “In addition, two new research projects have been funded that will tackle problems in cancer and cardiovascular disease that could benefit West Virginians and all individuals. We are excited about the opportunities these awards have created and are grateful to our congressional delegation for their continuing support of research at Marshall.”

The WV-INBRE projects include:

Identification of Potential Biomarkers for Cardiovascular Disease

A grant of $529,000 will fund a project led by Dr. Nalini Santanam, associate professor of pharmacology, to discover biomarkers that could help identify people predisposed to heart disease.

If the research is successful, it could lead to non-invasive testing to predict who might be at risk of having a heart attack and allow for preventive treatment.

Dr. Ken Cushman of West Liberty University is a collaborator on the project.

Prevention of Kidney Damage Caused By Anticancer Drug

Dr. Monica Valentovic, professor of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, will use a $651,000 award to further her lab’s efforts to evaluate methods for reducing the side effects of the widely used cancer chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

Dr. Elaine Hardman, associate professor of biochemistry and microbiology, and Dr. Tim Troyer of West Virginia Wesleyan College are collaborators on the project.

Summer Research Experiences for Students and Science Educators

A two-year $751,000 grant is supporting summer research interns at Marshall, West Virginia University (WVU) and the state’s undergraduate institutions. In addition, faculty from the undergraduate institutions and high school science teachers are involved in biomedical research projects, including cardiovascular disease and cancer summer research programs, on the Marshall and WVU campuses.

Research Workforce Development and Dissemination

In a complementary effort to encourage students to choose a career in biomedical research, a $590,000 grant will fund a two-year program to pay undergraduate students and high school science teachers to work on WV-INBRE-funded projects in campus labs. The students will be graduates of the Health Science Technology Academy (HSTA) program funded by NIH for minority and other underserved high school students, while the teachers will work with HSTA students at their local high schools

The funds will support students working on research projects in undergraduate institution labs during the academic year and high school science teachers working in Marshall, WVU and undergraduate labs during the summer.

The fifth grant, for a project called “Transcription Factors in Cancer,” supplements existing funding for Marshall’s NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, which emphasizes research related to melanoma, reproductive/endocrine cancers and the role of nutrition in cancer.

The $490,000 award will be used to help set up a network between Marshall and West Virginia University’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center to help researchers study the genetic makeup of donated tumor material. Researchers hope to use the information collected through the network to create more customized prognoses and cancer treatments.

Dr. Richard Niles, chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, is the principal investigator.

“The goal of the cancer genomics network is to use the power of new sequencing technology to uncover changes in the composition or expression of genes that might predict the future behavior of a particular tumor, or predict the tumor’s susceptibility to specific types of therapy,” Niles said. “These technologies are part of the development of personalized medicine and I am excited that we will be able to contribute to these advancements here in the state of West Virginia.” 


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964

Related:  Medical school faculty awarded $3 million [Herald-Dispatch, November 21, 2009]