WV-INBRE / West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence / NIH (NIGMS) Grant # P20GM103434

Project Information

Project Title: West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence
Principal Investigator: Gary O. Rankin, PhD

Marshall University (MU), in partnership with West Virginia University (WVU), received a three-year NIH Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) planning grant in 2001, from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), to develop a statewide consortium to enhance biomedical research at WV undergraduate institutions as part of the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program. Since that time, this program has continued with unprecedented NIH funding to help West Virginia overcome its historically low success rate in obtaining grant awards from the National Institutes of Health. In addition, it has enabled undergraduate institutions to foster a dynamic biomedical research culture among their faculty and students. The BRIN award allowed institutions to obtain funding for biomedical research equipment and pilot projects and established the summer research program for science faculty and students from predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs). The nine-week summer biomedical research experience at MU or WVU allowed students and faculty the opportunity to work on a biomedical research project for nine weeks and present their results at the Summer Research Symposium held at MU or WVU on an alternating basis. Following the BRIN program, NIH established the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program in 2004 to build on the foundation of the successes of the BRIN program.

West Virginia was successful in receiving an INBRE award in 2004 to establish the West Virginia INBRE (WV-INBRE) program as an extension of WV-BRIN. In WV-INBRE Phase I, MU and WVU continued their role as the lead institutions to a research network consisting of twelve undergraduate institutions. The multi-disciplinary research theme for this network is cellular and molecular biology with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease. Collectively, together with the lead institutions, the PUIs comprised the heart of the WV-INBRE research network. Administrative, Bioinformatics and Outreach Cores were established to facilitate the research progress, mentoring and training, and career development of scientists and students at the PUIs. The successful Appalachian Cardiovascular Research Network (ACoRN), which was developed during WV-BRIN to examine the genetic basis for cardiovascular disease in West Virginians, was expanded in scope. Programs were developed to provide research opportunities for undergraduate students that will serve as a pipeline into health related research careers. Significant outreach helped PUI partner institutions to enhance their potential to develop strong biomedical research programs. In addition, through providing numerous workshops, seminars from in-state and out-of-state scientists, research training and mentoring, and access to state-of-the-art core facilities, WV-INBRE has enhanced the science and technology knowledge base of the WV workforce.

Since Phase I (2004-2009), the WV-INBRE program has continued to grow, and the funding from NIH has been renewed three time with the program currently in Phase IV (2019-2024). During these developing years the program has evolved. NIH decided to dissolve NCRR in 2011 and transferred the IDeA program, including INBREs to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The ACORN project was concluded and new developmental research programs were established. While cellular and molecular biology is still the overarching research focus, specific programs looking at chronic diseases, cancer biology, and natural products research have been established. Addiction research is the latest area of research to be targeted for development. WV-INBRE established a relationship with the NIH-funded WV Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) program, a SEPA program that focuses primarily on minority and disadvantaged high school students, to help HSTA graduates continue their relationship with biomedical research in college by participating in WV-INBRE funded biomedical research projects at network institutions. We created a WV-INBRE–HSTA Task Force to facilitate interactions between the two programs, including having WV-INBRE faculty and students interact with HSTA Clubs and their various activities. More recently, we have formed a relationship with the NSF-funded FIRST2 program in West Virginia, which emphasizes helping first generation college students in STEM programs. WV-INBRE places some of these students in WV-INBRE supported research laboratories to enhance their biomedical research experience. The Summer Research Program has remained strong and an integral part of research training for undergraduate students, faculty and HSTA high school teachers. The network institutions have also evolved, with MU and WVU still serving as the lead institutions remaining as the lead institutions now with 14 partner institutions around the state. To date, WV-INBRE funding has exceeded over $74 million with an economic impact of over $150 million. Through the many activities of WV-INBRE and its interactions with other programs, WV-INBRE is having a major impact on student and faculty training and biomedical research and infrastructure in West Virginia.