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NIH funds research network program at New Mexico State

The National Institutes of Health's National Center for Research Resources has funded a new program at New Mexico State University to enhance biomedical research at all the state's universities.

medical Research Infrastructure Network will foster research collaborations and establish core laboratories equipped with specialized scientific instrumentation, said Jeffrey Arterburn, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at New Mexico State, who is director of the new program.

The $5.5 million program links research faculty at New Mexico State with colleagues at Eastern New Mexico University, Western New Mexico University, New Mexico Tech, New Mexico Highlands University and the University of New Mexico, Arterburn said.

"For the first time we are bringing all these universities together, sharing resources and expertise and equipment," he said. "The program is really going to help us develop our biomedical research capabilities across the state."

The science core of the program, directed by New Mexico State University biochemist Colleen Jonsson, focuses on basic biomedical research problems in two areas -- cell development and the structure and function of biologically important molecules.

"It is primarily basic research that is relevant to a variety of fields, including the understanding of cancer growth, neuromuscular disease, immune regulation, Alzheimer's disease and drug delivery," Arterburn said.

Network researchers will communicate and share information with the help of a Web-based unicast and multicast teleconferencing system that is part of the program's bioinformatics core, led by New Mexico State University biologist Brook Milligan and Mary O'Connell of the university's agronomy and horticulture department.

The interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the program is notable, Arterburn said. Twelve faculty researchers in the early stages of their careers are paired with mentors who are senior faculty members, and in many cases the partners are from different universities.

"We have people from a lot of disciplines and different departments," Arterburn said. "One of our mentors is from engineering."

Individual research projects supported by the three-year grant include the work of John Engen of UNM, whose mentor is UNM's Christie Enke; Newton Hilliard of ENMU, whose mentor is NMSU's Sarah Harcum; Zhiming Liu of ENMU, mentored by NMSU's Dean Hawkins; Rebecca Reiss of New Mexico Tech, mentored by NMSU's Brook Milligan; Thomas Resta of UNM, mentored by UNM's B.R. Walker; Snezna Rogelj of New Mexico Tech, mentored by Tech's Al Smoake; Stephen Starnes of NMSU, mentored by Arterburn; Graciela Unguez of NMSU, mentored by NMSU's Elba Serrano; Manuel Varela of ENMU, mentored by UNM's Jeffrey Griffith; and Nicholas Wright of ENMU, mentored by UNM's Don Partridge.

New Mexico Highlands will hire two researchers for the program. Students and faculty from Western New Mexico can conduct research using the facilities and equipment available through the network.

Results of the research projects will be presented at scientific conferences held by the network each year.

Two of the network's core laboratories will be located at New Mexico State, Arterburn said. A new cell tissue laboratory is being established and special equipment is being acquired to augment existing laboratory facilities for the study of the structure and function of biomolecules.