NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

NMSU biomedical research program expands thanks to $17.5 million grant

A New Mexico State University-based biomedical research program is moving into its second phase with the help of a $17.5 million federal grant to continue developing research.

Zuni Health Initiative study coordinator Arlene Bobelu and staff members Donica Neha and Jeanette Bobelu stand outside the clinic in the Zuni Pueblo. The clinic is used in the pilot study and funded by NM-INBRE. (Photo courtesy Vallabh Raj Shah)

The five-year grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health in May to the New Mexico IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (NM-INBRE). The program's pilot phase, New Mexico Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (NM-BRIN), started in 2001, was created to strengthen biomedical research in New Mexico's institutions of higher education and to prepare faculty and students for participation in the research programs of the NIH.

The network includes the partner institutions University of New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and New Mexico Highlands University. It also includes the non-profit National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe.

Moving into the second renewal phase of the NM-INBRE program means expanding the network of partner institutions to include San Juan College in Farmington and The Dialysis Clinic, Inc. of Albuquerque. The Dialysis Clinic is currently working on a community-based research project that could identify possible genetic, environmental and cultural interactions that negatively affect health conditions in Native Americans in a study called the Zuni Health Initiative.

"There's a tremendous need to have scientists working on biomedical problems, working on diseases we can't cure and making sure all populations have treatments that work for them as well," said Jeffrey Arterburn, program director and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at NMSU.

A major overall objective for the program is to help the current 15 pilot projects develop into competitive NIH proposals, while providing access to core facilities and encouraging research partnerships. About 100 students have participated annually in these projects and partnerships.

NM-INBRE Program Manager Carolyn Bizzell said one interesting example is of a student who began with the NM-BRIN research and continued on to receive her Ph.D.

"Now, her younger brother is studying at NMSU," Bizzell said. "He saw how well she did and it motivated him to follow in her footsteps."

The $17.5 million funding was provided by the National Center for Research Resources, a division of the NIH, as part of a competitive $122 million award to IDeA-eligible states, which are states that historically have not received significant NIH funding.

"This funding is helping the program continue its progress," NM-INBRE program evaluator Christiane Herber-Valdez said. "It is helping faculty get funding for their research and it's helping students get hands-on experience. It has further created a statewide network of support and resources."

NM-INBRE also sponsors an annual conference that aids in cultivating strong research collaborations. Not only are the faculty researchers able to demonstrate progress on their projects, they are able to discuss processes, procedures and findings with other researchers within the state. The conference features a student poster session that provides an opportunity for students to showcase the research they participate in and receive individual attention and feedback from researchers.

"These preliminary results translate into successful external funding," Arterburn said. "The program exists to further independent research." Arterburn added that developing young researchers to the point of successfully competing for federal research funding is the purpose of the program.

Arterburn said the nearly 200 papers published and 700 presentations given by faculty and students since 2001 demonstrate such success.

The NM-INBRE thematic research focus areas include structure and function of biomolecules; cell and organism and developmental diseases; and viral and bacterial pathogens. The programmatic focus areas include opportunities for faculty development by building a strong portfolio of scientific research projects; student education and participation in conducting scientific research; and in-state and regional collaborations with other programs to build a biomedical research network.