NNU receives bio-med grant renewal from INBRE

June 30, 2014, 2:51 pm

NNU is pleased to announce the renewal of the INBRE grant for a total of $3.2 million over the next five years in partnership with all the universities in Idaho to support biomedical research. The grant comes through the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Program. The INBRE Program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Institutional Development Award (IDeA).

NNU has a long history of faculty-student research through which students work closely with faculty members on projects in chemistry, physics and engineering as well as biomedical research. These funds will help continue that long-time tradition of research excellence and real-world experience for undergraduate students.

Dr. Dan Nogales, dean of NNU’s College of Arts and Sciences, says, “We are incredibly grateful for the support of the INBRE Program. It will continue to enhance the already active research happening at NNU and give us opportunities to expand research capabilities for our students and faculty over the next five years.”

The aim of the INBRE Program and focus of the grant is to strengthen the biomedical research landscape in Idaho and to provide a pipeline for students and faculty to promote biomedical research professionals. The INBRE Program funds research through educational institutions throughout the state. Boise State University, Idaho State University and College of Idaho researchers will work in collaboration with NNU researchers on the funded projects.

One of the lead researchers at NNU is chemistry professor Dr. Jerry Harris. His research will expand into the environmental toxicology and human health implications of nanoparticles, in collaboration with professors Josh Pak, Jean Pfau, and Michael Thomas at Idaho State University. The collaboration seeks to explore how the chemistry of small particles (nanomaterials) impacts the toxicity (toxicology) of the materials and how the toxicology is manifested in gene expression. In this project, Harris will partner with Pak to make the materials. The goal is to identify chemical formulations that contribute to biological reactivity and to determine how size, shape and method of preparation influence the effects caused by exposures to nanomaterials.

Harris explains, “Nanomaterials prepared will be exposed to simulated environments such as physiological pH, heat and humidity. Samples will also be studied in terms of their decomposition and byproducts. Data will be collected to establish a baseline for cell culture studies. This project is significant because it is the first step in a series of research that is expected to lead to development of synthetic methods that will allow control over nanomaterial toxicity properties. It is anticipated that this project will lead to the development of nanomaterial properties essential for industrial applications, while minimizing environmental impact and human health concerns.”

In addition to the INBRE grant, NNU professors have obtained funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NASA and the Idaho Space Grant. This funding is supporting 35 undergraduate students who work directly with faculty on original research projects. Examples of these projects include testing materials and electronics for space flight, synthesizing self-assembling molecules capable of encapsulating smaller molecules, using remote sensing to evaluate crop health, and researching the causes for illness such as MRSA bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease and the effect of alcohol on fetal development.

NNU’s Dr. Dan Nogales says, “We are thrilled about the research opportunities these projects will provide for our undergraduate students and look forward to the expanded opportunities for our students now and in the future.”

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