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Ryan Johnson, Published October 16 2012

NDSU gets $4.9 million grant for biomedical research

FARGO – A new $4.9 million grant will help North Dakota State University’s burgeoning biomedical research move to the next level as faculty, students and scientists look for better treatments for cancer, asthma, arthritis and other major diseases.

The five-year research grant from the National Institutes of Health will continue the work of the Center for Protease Research that began 12 years ago. The $24 million in grant funding previously received by the program helped establish Core Biology and Core Synthesis facilities on the campus.

President Dean Bresciani said it’s a sign of what the university can accomplish as it continues to move up in national rankings, including now being among the top 2 percent of all research colleges and universities in the country.

“Why that matters is because we’re then able to attract the type of national attention and partnerships and research funding that makes it possible for us to do something that no North Dakota university has ever been able to do before,” he said.

Provost Bruce Rafert said Director Mukund Sibi and his team of about 80 researchers at the Center for Protease Research have been able to leverage the competitive grant funding to create new laboratories that are now used by many of the university’s colleges.

“They really give NDSU a position of leadership and having tremendous facilities to go along with our tremendous people,” he said.

The first five years were focused on cancer research, but they have since expanded to include work on asthma, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases, Sibi said.

In addition to those scientific contributions, Sibi said the center built “human infrastructure” by hiring new faculty members and providing educational opportunities for students from NDSU and other regional schools. It has also boosted the university’s research potential, he said.

But Sibi said it’s important to move beyond that potential and find ways to translate their work, something he said could happen soon as the center partners with Sanford Health researchers on upcoming clinical trials based on their research.

Phil Boudjouk, NDSU’s vice president for research, creative activities and technology transfer, said their work has established a vital “footprint” that will benefit future researchers.

“You’re going to find that there’s going to be plenty there as a legacy for future students and faculty to continue biomedical research,” he said. “In my mind, the mark of a great research program is the size of the footprint when the money’s gone; what have you got? I think we’ll all be very proud of what we’ll see when the last nickel is spent.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587

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