The University of Florida's (UF) Institute on Aging has received close to $15 million from the NIH through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to construct an almost 40,000-square-foot complex for clinical and translational research. Separately, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) was awarded $12.8 million in ARRA funding by the NIH for research into cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, radioactive decontamination, and a variety of other health conditions.
The UF building is expected to bring together scientists from a range of disciplines to enhance aging research on the campus. “This is a unique opportunity to have basic science, clinical, epidemiology, and health services researchers working under the same roof on a common goal of improving the health and independence of older adults,” says Marco Pahor, M.D., principal investigator of the grant and director of the UF Institute on Aging.
The facility will reportedly make it easier for mobility-restricted older adults to take part in clinical trials. There will be facilities for clinical-research recruitment and assessment, laboratories, training, conferences, and lifestyle intervention including an indoor walking track, demonstration kitchen, and a behavioral counseling suite.
The project is estimated to create or retain about 376 jobs, three quarters of which will be construction-related. The remaining jobs include 30 faculty positions as well as graduate assistants and support and administrative staff.
The new grant comes on the heels of a recent $64 million NIH research award to the UF Institute on Aging to study whether physical activity can help prevent mobility disability and other morbidities in older adults. Together the institute's researchers have more than 90 active NIH and other grants in basic, clinical, and translational science totaling more than $200 million and almost 150 pending grant proposals that would garner close to $200 million more.
For Berkeley Lab, today’s NIH grants bring its total ARRA funding to more than $240 million in areas covering energy, computing, and general science, as well as infrastructure projects. “The Recovery Act grants from NIH have allowed us to create quite a few new positions for scientists, technicians, research associates, and postdoctoral fellows as well as retain some jobs,” comments Joe Gray, associate laboratory director for life sciences.
The $12.8 million will go to 14 individual research projects ranging from disease investigation to the development of tools for medical researchers. The largest single grant is $4.2 million for a two-year research project to develop treatments for contamination by radioactive actinide particles such as those from nuclear accident fallout or a dirty bomb.”
The only existing method of mitigating risks of actinide contamination is a treatment developed in the 1950s that must be given through an injection, which would not be viable in a situation where residents of an entire metropolitan area must be injected in a matter of hours. Further, this agent, known as DTPA, is effective only on a few actinides, Berkeley Lab points out.
Two molecules that have been developed at Berkeley Lab to sequester actinides can reportedly target a much wider range of actinides, the most well-known of which are uranium and plutonium. These compounds help excrete up to 90% of the radioactive particles within 24 hours. Additionally, given doses over subsequent days, nearly complete excretion is possible, the researchers say.
“The ARRA funding will enable us to proceed with preclinical development of two compounds that have been designed and tested,” says scientist Rebecca Abergel. “They are very promising. We have not observed major toxicity issues, and the efficacy is in the range we want it to be. What we want to accomplish in the next two years is to gather data to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration.”
The Berkeley Lab research group, led by GTSC director, Kenneth Raymond, will partner with SRI International and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute to conduct toxicology and pharmacology tests with the goal of filing an investigational new drug application with the FDA in two years.
Other Recovery Act awards to Berkeley Lab from NIH include:
• $1.4 million to better understand a molecular switch in RNA splicing that occurs in red cell precursors. The principal investigator (PI) is John Conboy.
• $1 million to develop tools to better understand the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and Huntington disease. The PIs are Cynthia McMurray and Trent Northen.
• $861,034 to investigate how red blood cell production is increased in response to multiple inherited and acquired anemias including thalassemia, sickle cell disease, hereditary membrane disorders, autoimmune red blood cell destruction, and blood loss. The PI is Joel Chasis.
• $842,908 to develop a model to uncover the mechanism by which a certain noncoding region of the human genome confers susceptibility to cardiovascular or coronary artery disease. The PI is Len Pennacchio.
• $783,397 to complete a four-year project to map chromosomal proteins in the genome of fruit flies. The PI is Gary Karpen.
• $433,476 to build a next-generation robotic system for the study of biological molecules and their assemblies. The PI is Thomas Earnest.
• $366,123 to accelerate the development of the Phenix software program, which automates crystallography data analysis and facilitates the process of understanding the 3-D structure of proteins and nucleic acids. The PI is Paul Adams.
• $325,975 to investigate the roles of the SATB1 protein in the progression of different types of cancers and proteins functionally related to SATB1 in self-renewal and differentiation of embryonic stem cells. The PI is Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu.
• $278,332 for the Berkeley Cancer Genome Center to systematically analyze the transcriptomes of human brain, ovarian, and lung cancers with emphasis on discovering alternately spliced genes. The PI is Joe Gray.