NIH Awards $5.1 Million To UND To Continue Biomedical Research Excellence

The National Institutes of Health awarded $5.1 million to the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE, [pronounced KOH’-bree]) at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. This five-year grant marks the second time this grant was renewed on its first attempt and brings to 15 the total number of years NIH will have supported UND’s world-class neuroscientists through this funding mechanism. The NIH is the nation’s medical research center and is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world.

In 2002, the UND COBRE for Neurodegenerative Disorder Research was originally funded for $10.4 million, and in 2007, UND’s COBRE funding was renewed for an additional five years at $10.1 million.

“By 2017, through this center grant alone, NIH grants will have provided investigators at UND with over $25 million to continue their very important work,” said Jonathan D. Geiger, PhD, principal investigator of the COBRE. Geiger is Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Therapeutics; and interim chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

UND’s researchers use powerful tools to probe deep into the microscopic and submicroscopic realm to answer questions about neurodegenerative diseases that loom large in health care, diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, neurological complications associated with HIV-1 infection, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders. Causes of these diseases are complex, so the COBRE’s cadre of investigators are drawn from all the medical research disciplines at the SMHS. Translating their discoveries into treatments—“from lab bench to bedside”—is a crucial part of their work.

During the first five years of the COBRE grant (COBRE-I), new faculty members were hired, scientific investigations were supported, and major pieces of equipment were purchased. During the second five years of the COBRE grant (COBRE-II), additional faculty members were hired, new scientific investigations were supported, and the group was expanded. And, with supplemental support from the dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, UND’s vice president for Research and Economic Development, and various academic departments at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, additional state-of-the-art equipment was purchased for the two highly successful core facilities initiated through this center grant:

  • The Mass Spectrometry Center, where researchers use instruments to measure with great precision and accuracy small molecular weight compounds that might play roles in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders.
  • The Edward C. Carlson Imaging and Image Analysis Core Facility, where investigators use a variety of light and electron microscopes to visualize pathological features of the diseases.

Over the first ten years of COBRE grant funding, nine new faculty members were hired, 11 project directors were supported, and the mass spectrometry and imaging core facilities were developed and supported. In addition, 16 neuroscience investigators were supported through pilot grants. COBRE investigators have attracted about $11 million in additional grants and have achieved many successes, including publishing 242 scientific studies in international scientific journals.

“The aims of the final five years of the COBRE grant (COBRE-III) are to support collaborative visits from leading scientists, to jump-start novel avenues of research through our aggressive pilot grant program, and to provide ongoing support for the critical work performed in our mass spectrometry and imaging cores,” Geiger said.

Denis MacLeod
assistant director, Office of Alumni and Community Relations
UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences
(701) 777-2733