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ARRA Investments in Biomedical Faculty

Public Health Burden
Scientists not only conduct research but they teach students and serve as mentors for the next generation of scientists. An important aspect of this process is the continual infusion of techniques and thought processes. However in recent years, the career path of many young scientists has been stalled at the postdoctoral level because the economic difficulties of research institutions has precluded faculty hiring- preventing their development into independent investigators. Therefore, the recruitment of outstanding faculty and staff is vital to the development and sustainability of quality research programs and to the training of future investigators.

Over the past few years, institutions, lacking financial resources, have found it difficult to recruit highly qualified individuals in large part due to insufficient resources for startup costs. These grants ensure that promising candidates, found through rigorous searches, have the wherewithal to be competitive in the peer review process. Once recruited and hired, ARRA funded institutions must also have procedures in place to mentor and develop new faculty. Multiple ARRA grants were awarded to support new faculty, including:
  • Metal centers are essential and abundant cofactors in fundamental life processes such as respiration, photosynthesis, and carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen and sulfur metabolism. The grant supports the recruitment of a tenure-track assistant professor with research interests in metallobiochemistry to the University of Georgia as a Bioinorganic Chemistry faculty member. It is anticipated that the new hire will enhance and extend current expertise in biomedically important areas of metallobiochemistry research involving metal homeostasis, metal toxicity, metallocenter assembly, and mechanistic metalloenzymology.1
  • Membrane proteins play critical roles in cellular communication with the outside world and in energy metabolism, such as signal transduction, solute transportation, bio-catalyzation and cell recognition. About 25% of all the proteins encoded in the currently known genomes are membrane proteins, and approximately two-thirds of therapeutic drugs on the market target membrane proteins. ARRA grant funding will support the hiring of a tenure track faculty member in experimental biological physics of membrane proteins at the University of Missouri. The newly recruited investigator will join the existing interdisciplinary team which includes the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, and the Biochemistry Department. This person will bring a new line of research in experimental membrane physics (e.g., dynamics/conformational changes, functions, or structures) using advanced single molecule and/or bio-imaging techniques, thus complementing the theoretical and computational capabilities already in place in the Department.2
  • Advances in molecular medicine, genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics have enhanced our understanding of inter-individual variability in susceptibility to disease, in expression of disease, and in beneficial and adverse responses to therapies. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has prioritized personalized health and healthcare as a research goal, with the aim of developing methodologies to deliver new information to clinical decision-making in patient care. This effort builds on existing programs in Clinical Pharmacology and Drug Discovery, Proteomics, Imaging,Genetics and Bioinformatics to improve and extend personalized healthcare in the United States. Realizing this goal requires continued recruitment of and investment in a multidisciplinary team of young investigators with expertise in clinical and basic pharmacology, mass spectrometry, clinical and basic genetics, informatics, and genetic epidemiology and biostatistics. Accordingly, the award to VUMC will support the recruitment of 2 scientists, one basic and one clinical.3    
  • The intracellular movement of molecules is a fundamental property of living cells, being reflected in a very large number of cellular processes, including cell division, transport within nerve axons and endocytosis of nutrients and signaling molecules, to name a few. Mutations in the trafficking machinery of the cell or the cargoes that are transported can generate trafficking defects that are linked to human disease including atherosclerosis, neuro-degeneration and polycystic kidney disease. The University of-Minnesota has established a Molecular Trafficking Core Center to study this area. The ARRA P30 award will cover salaries for two new tenure-track faculty members who will use state of the art imaging techniques to study cellular motors.4
  • In the emerging fields of regenerative and stem cell biology, scientists seek to define and understand the natural processes by which damaged or aging tissues and organs can regenerate or be repaired, and to apply that knowledge to developing medical therapies. Marine invertebrates and lower vertebrate organisms hold great promise as research models for regeneration, particularly as the field progresses in decoding their genomes. The Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, will use the ARRA P30 award to launch an initiative in regenerative and stem cell biology drawing upon the special advantages of marine invertebrates by recruiting two individuals who, with existing MBL scientists, would provide the critical mass for establishing a new Center for Regenerative Biology.5
  • The Department of Pathology at the University of New Mexico will use the ARRA P30 award to support the recruitment of two Assistant Professors to a new Biomedical Research Core Center (BRCC) in Immunology and Imaging.  The BRCC will operate in conjunction with of three major interdisciplinary NIH grants: The New Mexico Center for Spatiotemporal Modeling of Cell, which focuses on dynamic high resolution imaging and computational modeling of signaling pathways; The New Mexico Center for Molecular Discovery, which  uses high throughput flow cytometry and cheminformatics to discover and develop drugs specific for targets in immune and cancer cells; and The New Mexico Academic Science Education and Research Training, which prepares minority (and other) post-docs for success in research and teaching as a means of diversifying the next generation of academic faculty. The research area of the recruitment will cover anti-pathogen immunity, immune surveillance against cancer, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory illnesses or the innate immune system.6

  1. 1P30GM092378-01 -- Recruitment of a Bioinorganic Chemistry Faculty Member -- Johnson, Michael K (GA)
  2. 1P30GM092456-01 -- Hiring Plan for Biophysics Core Faculty Position -- Pfeifer, Peter (MO)
  3. 1P30GM092386-01 -- Vanderbilt Personalized Medicine Core- Brown, Nancy J (TN)
  4. 1P30GM092384-01 -- Cell Biology Hires in Trafficking and Optical Imaging at the Univ. of Minnesota -- O'Connor, Michael B (MO)
  5. 1P30GM092374-01 -- Regenerative Biology Center at the MBL -- Borisy, Gary G (MA)
  6. 1P30GM092317-01 -- NIGMS Biomedical Research Core Center in Immunology and Imaging -- Williams, Thomas M (NM)

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