Montana State University

NIH gives $18 million to enhance biomedical research across Montana

August 4, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN – Montana’s ability to conduct biomedical research has received another boost in the form of $18 million from the National Institutes of Health.

The new grant will allow the Montana INBRE Program to continue another five years and build on the successes it has had since it began in 2001, said Allen Harmsen, a Montana State University professor who directs the program.

If the NIH gives final approval on projects that have already been approved on the state level, college students and faculty across Montana will research issues of special significance to Montanans, including infectious disease research, such as on West Nile Virus; suicide prevention, water quality, environmental health, and health disparities.

Although Harmsen is based at MSU, the Montana INBRE Program involves 13 tribal colleges, community colleges and universities. The program, in fact, is aimed more at schools with undergraduate programs rather than only those with graduate students.

“INBRE, which links educational and research institutions throughout Montana, has created a pipeline to biomedical and health research careers for undergraduate students, including those attending tribal community colleges,” said W. Fred Taylor, director of the IDeA program at NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

“The network also enhances faculty development, builds regional and national research collaborations, and addresses health disparities in Montana’s rural and Native communities,” Taylor said. “The next phase of funding will enable this INBRE to strengthen and expand on these important activities.”

Harmsen said the Montana INBRE Program also builds research infrastructure, such as laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment. It has already built research labs in almost all of Montana’s tribal colleges, making it easier for collaborations to occur between tribal colleges and other institutions.

He added that the research students conduct at tribal colleges or community colleges can help them make the transition to MSU or UM, where they can continue conducting research. The research they conduct at MSU or UM can lead to graduate school or careers in the biomedical or health fields.

Twenty-four states currently belong to the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, including Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. INBRE is aimed at helping researchers in rural states become more competitive when they apply for federal grants.

“We don’t fund research,” Harmsen said. “We fund the development of the intellectual and physical infrastructure that supports research. INBRE investigators have to show progression toward being self-sustaining, being able to write their own grants and fund their own programs.” 

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu