UI Receives $10.6 Million Grant from National Institutes of Health
Wednesday, April 15
The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Idaho nearly $10.6 million to support the university’s new Center for Modeling Complex Interactions, which will build UI’s research capabilities and expertise in the area of collaborative modeling.
The center will focus its efforts on using mathematical, statistical and molecular models to address biomedical research questions of urgent relevance in the world today. The award is the first phase of a new Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for UI.
“COBREs, like the one at the University of Idaho, are thematic, multidisciplinary programs that enhance faculty and institutional research capabilities in states that historically have had low levels of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding,” said W. Fred Taylor, who directs the IDeA program at NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “This award will strengthen the institution’s biomedical research infrastructure, support research projects in a cutting-edge scientific area and provide mentoring and training activities to increase the ability of UI’s junior investigators to compete independently for NIH or other external, peer-reviewed support.”
“This grant has the potential to be transformative for research at our university,” said Chuck Staben, UI president. “In 10 years, I anticipate that this grant will have helped our institution take a leadership position in complex system modeling.”
The heart of the center is the Collaboratorium for Modeling Complex Problems, opening at 4:30 p.m. today in Mines Building Room 323. The Collaboratorium will house postdoctoral researchers connected to the center’s projects, as well as allow faculty, staff and student researchers from any discipline to meet and share ideas and resources. The UI College of Science, Office of Research and Economic Development and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies also supported the remodeling of this space.
“All these big problems that we need to address are data-rich, but in order to make sense of those data, you need modeling skills,” said Distinguished Professor of biological sciences Holly Wichman, the center’s principal investigator. “If you get a bunch of smart people in a room together, the flow of ideas can enrich the projects.”
The grant supports three initial research projects funded through the center, each focusing on viral co-infection — when an organism is infected by two or more viruses at the same time. The projects are:
- Children often contract respiratory infections caused by two viruses at once. Symptoms are sometimes worse, but sometimes better. Tanya Miura, associate professor of biological sciences, will use model systems to study the underlying aspects of the immune system that could be causing the variation.
- Christine Parent, assistant professor of biological sciences, will study population-level effects of co-infection using a UI-developed fruit fly model of viral co-infection that can be tracked across multiple generations.
- Bert Baumgaertner, assistant professor of philosophy, will adapt his models for studying the communication of philosophical questions to study the spread of viral infections through changed behavior of infected individuals.
Grant funding also will support:
- Pilot programs to assist UI researchers in generating the data and models they need to apply for larger grants to support biomedical research.
- Start-up funds for a hiring program focused on expanding UI’s collaborative capabilities by adding new faculty in biochemistry, mathematics, epidemiology, computer science and scientific ethics.
- A seminar program focused on the integration of modeling and empirical research.
- Mentoring activities for faculty and postdoctoral researchers involved in the Center.
Eventually, the university hopes to expand the center’s example of collaborative modeling to serve as a university-wide resource for any projects around the theme of modeling complex interactions.
“The questions that research must seek to answer in order to address the problems facing Idaho and the nation require developing techniques for dealing with complex systems defined by increasing amounts of data,” said Jack McIver, vice president for research and economic development at UI. “But with projects like the Center for Modeling Complex Interactions, researchers at the University of Idaho will begin this development process by concentrating on particular systems in the biomedical arena.”
Research conducted under this award will be supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM104420. The proposed research is solely the responsibility of the investigators and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.