Accomplishments BRIN & INBRE 1

Ms. Chelsea Paskavan completed a post-baccalaureate research intensive with Dr. Marvin Schulte. She is now a medical student with an expected graduation date of 2012.

The Alaska INBRE Program ( Anchorage , Fairbanks , Juneau campuses) links expertise in field biology to environmental disease agents. UAA faculty members are in biology and WWAMI; While faculty on the Fairbanks campus (UAF) are found in biology and biochemistry.

Since our university is small we cannot be experts in all disciplines. Even considering all campuses as an aggregate, there are too few faculty members for much depth in many areas of biology and biomedicine.   To cite but two examples:

·     There is only one UAA faculty member with graduate training in functional immunology and none at UAF.

·     There are three UAF faculty members with graduate degrees in protein biochemistry and none at UAA.

New biomedical infrastructure federal awards and state investments have helped. NIH awards to UA rose from $70K in FY1999 to $1.2M in FY01 and to over $7M per year (mostly infrastructure) since 2001.   The funds are in the form of infrastructure building grants through the National Center Research Resources (NCRR) in a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) and the IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence, (INBRE).   These investments “to prime the pump” are becoming self-sustaining.  The third grant is Specialized Neuroscience Research Program (SNRP) grant, through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke ( NINDS ), National Institute of Mental Health ( NIMH ), and the National Center for Research Resources ( NCRR )

We are making progress in addressing the disparities and surmounting barriers:  

1)    Critical mass – These federally-supported programs have complementary research themes and overlapping personnel.   All the funding streams are targeted in the same departments: Biology and Wildlife, Chemistry, and Psychology at UAF and Biological Sciences at UAA.

2)    Research space - Since 2002, three new biomedical buildings have been constructed (wet-bench labs at UAA and UAF and animal quarters at UAF) and a fourth is nearing completion at UAA.   The animal quarters on the Fairbanks campus received specialized construction funding.   The State of Alaska has invested over $150M in buildings for biology and biomedicine at UAA and UAF.   More renovations and buildings are in planning phases.

3)    Instrumentation – Major instruments were acquired and Core lab cultures are evolving. To foster sharing between MAUs, INBRE-2 will fund intercampus travel for instrument access.

4)    The new Computational resources include an INBRE Core in Bioinformatics/Computation in biology that serves many different campus biologists and a COBRE Core in Biostatistics that is of particular help to behavioral scientists.

5)    Administrative improvements for research services include new staff additions in sponsored programs, improved research integrity machinery, intellectual property, human subjects, animal care protocols, etc.

6)    Program integration across campuses – We have worked to move beyond deep-seated cultural traditions of campus chauvinism.   Statewide themes were proposed in a 2004 UA Health Plan.   A next- generation biomedical plan is in progress at UAA and UAF. It is clear now that the most powerful force for change is the new faculty. On the instructional side, allied health and pre-professional programs (UAA is the lead MAU) and the joint UAF/UAA doctoral program in Clinical/Community Psychology are signal successes.

Alaska ’s science springs from natural resources, like our economy.   Our economy follows a “third-world” model: we gather gold, minerals, oil etc. and ship them out for processing. Alaska ’s science began in the 1800’s as a collecting site for museums. In 2008, Alaska needs the scientific infrastructure to follow some threads of biomedical research “from bench-top to bedside”.   For the sake of both research and training, scientists in Alaska must not only help acquire data here, but also participate downstream in hypothesis-driven research.   Partnerships, in-state and “outside”, are key to 21st century biomedical research in Alaska . We must surmount campus, geographic, and disciplinary barriers. Both UAF and UAA have complementary expertise and tendrils that reach throughout the state. Within the state, we habitually collaborate, and ongoing Alaska-based research projects already partner with US or international colleagues.   These facts argue for the potential of an INBRE network that is beginning to succeed and that, we believe, will continue to do so.

In 2008, for the first time in five years, both UAA and UAF have active NIH R01 awards, (the gold standard of biomedical research funding), including one each to INBRE and COBRE faculty members.