Federal Stimulus Funds Bolster Vanderbilt’s Research Enterprise

November 10, 2009

BY: BILL SNYDER

Vanderbilt University scientists have received 182 federal “stimulus” grants totaling more than $79 million to support new and existing research projects, buy major equipment and hire additional personnel.

The two-year grants were provided under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Federal Work Study program.

By Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, the NIH alone had awarded 165 grants, totaling more than $68 million, to 131 principal investigators in the Schools of Medicine and Engineering, the College of Arts & Science and Peabody College.

Forty-six grants were new this year, while the rest continued funding for existing research programs. Three of them were multi-million-dollar “Grand Opportunities” grants, named by the NIH for their potential to have “high, short-term impact” on public health and health care delivery.

These grants will:

• Test a key aspect of “personalized medicine” - whether including genetic information in the electronic medical record can improve treatment outcomes and avoid adverse drug effects;

• Establish a new cancer drug discovery program, a joint effort of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; and

• Identify “biomarker signatures” from drugs of abuse that could help increase the effectiveness of drug treatment strategies.

Nine Vanderbilt researchers have received “Challenge Grants,” each providing up to $500,000 in the first year in high priority areas of biomedical and behavioral research.

Three of them are pursuing cancer research: David Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Medicine, Cell & Developmental Biology and Cancer Biology; H. Charles Manning, Ph.D., assistant professor of Radiology & Radiological Sciences; and Wendell (Dell) Yarbrough, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology and Cancer Biology.

In addition:

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, will compare stress management techniques in parents of children with disabilities;

Judy Garber, Ph.D., professor of Psychology and Human Development, will test the efficacy of a brief intervention for increasing adherence to treatment recommendations in parents of children with emotional or behavioral problems;

Kevin Schey, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, will search for novel RNA and protein biomarkers to improve diagnosis and treatment of hypertension;

Virginia Shepherd, Ph.D., director of the Center for Science Outreach (CS0), will evaluate the CSO’s “Scientist-in-the-Classroom” program, operated in partnership with Metro public schools, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University and Fisk University;

Michelle Southard-Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine and of Cell & Developmental Biology, will search for genes that control nerve development in the lower urinary tract; and Arthur Wheeler, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, will develop interactive electronic applications to improve early detection and treatment of sepsis in ICU patients.

For more information about specific stimulus grants, check out Vanderbilt’s Recovery Act Web site, www.vanderbilt.edu/research/recovery.html. Stories also are listed on the Reporter site.

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