Furman Receives $1.3 Million for Biomedical Research

By Amanda Richey, News Editor

Furman will receive $1.3 million in awarded research funding from the National Institutes of Health after competing for the award both nationally and in South Carolina over the past two years.

The funding is tied to the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) award, which is designed to level the playing field for states that traditionally do not receive as much federal funding in biomedical research.

According to Dr. John Wheeler, a chemistry professor and Director of Furman’s Office of Integrative Research in the Sciences, the award will be distributed among faculty and Furman students in addition to providing funding for opportunities for local area high school students during the five-year award period.

INBRE funding directly awards faculty who are committed to biomedical research, traditionally from biology, chemistry, health sciences, psychology and neuroscience departments. The award will benefit student researchers through scholarships similar to the summer Furman Advantage research program.

According to Dr. Renee Chosed, a biology professor and one of the faculty recipients of the award, the funding is vital for her lab.

“This funding is allowing my students to perform experiments with the same equipment and tools that would be available at a larger research university,” Chosed said.  

Dr. Chosed’s lab studies yeast as a model for leukemia and Parkinson’s disease, and although no human subjects are involved, the research can get expensive.

“[We] have the funds to continue if we need to do a follow-up experiment,” Chosed said. “We’re not limited by the money anymore, which is important for students.”

Another component of the INBRE award is to build K-12 educational infrastructure in the sciences for schools in the community. A portion of the funding will allow Furman to provide two local high schoolers with research opportunities each summer and training for seven high school science teachers annually.

This is not the first time the university has won the INBRE award. Furman first won the award ten years ago and renewed funding in 2010.

In 2005, only four institutions in South Carolina received federal INBRE funding. The 2015 cohort is the largest thus far with 13 institutions, 10 of which support undergraduate research specifically.

“Because Furman is a mature institution [in terms of receiving the award], we need to go above and beyond and serve as a mentor to other INBRE schools,” Wheeler said.

This spirit of mentorship is already active. Furman has a new partnership with Converse College, a first time recipient of the NIH funding. Additionally, Dr. John Kaup, Coordinator of Science Education, has been appointed to give statewide oversight of the K-12 outreach portion of the INBRE award.

According to Dr. Wheeler, the ultimate goal in applying for and receiving awards like the latest INBRE funding from NIH is to provide students with research experience.

“When Furman wins these awards and is recognized on a federal level it truly should be celebrated because it’s such a competitive process,” Wheeler said. “The way to best continue providing opportunities to students…is to compete and apply for awards.”

Furman students and faculty involved in biomedical research have received over $3.5 million from NIH funding alone since 2005, the first year Furman won the INBRE award.

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