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UM SPH gets $33.7 million in NIH Stimulus Award Funding

February 1 , 2010, University of Michigan School of Public Health release

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers have received 19 grants totaling $33.7 million in ARRA stimulus funding from the National Institutes of Health as of last count.

The funding is part of the federal stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will fund projects targeted toward rebuilding infrastructure and growing the next generation economy. Congress allocated $21.5 billion for scientific research, capital equipment, and science-related construction projects.

SPH biostatisticians Michael Boehnke and Gonçalo Abecasis received three awards to sequence 4,000 complete human genomes and develop tools to allow researchers to deploy the same technology to study a variety of diseases.

The largest award to the School of Public Health, $17 million, is a collaboration with the Broad Institute and University of North Carolina to sequence and genotype 3,000 individuals, half with type 2 diabetes and half without. This research is important because it will give doctors and researchers a better idea who is predisposed to the disease, and may help in developing new treatments.

Boehnke, the lead principal investigator on the project, is the Richard G. Cornell Distinguished University Professor of Biostatistics and director of the Center for Statistical Genetics and the Genome Science Training Program. He was elected a 2009 AAAS Fellow for contributions to the analysis of human genetic data.

Abecasis, the Felix E. Moore Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics, was awarded two research grants totaling close to $5 million from the National Human Genome Research Institute. A two-year project will sequence 1,000 genomes in a study related to the genetics of lipid levels.

According to NHGRI, past improvements in sequencing technology have opened the door to pursuing medical sequencing projects in laboratories.

"The impressive dollar amount and the number of grants the School of Public Health received, especially in relation to larger schools and colleges on this and other campuses around the country, demonstrate again the scientific respect our faculty have earned, and how hard they work," said Kenneth Warner, Dean and Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor of Public Health. "These awards will fuel substantial contributions to scientific knowledge and, ultimately, to the health of the public."

Another large award went to Betsy Foxman, professor in epidemiology and director for the Center for Molecular and Clinical Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases. Foxman was awarded $1.5 million for a study relating to preterm birth. Her project looks at how often the different microbes associated with bacterial vaginosis and periodontitis are found in the mouth and vaginal cavity, their relative abundance, and if the presence at both sites increases risk of preterm birth over the presence in only one site.

If researchers can determine how the occurrence and relative abundance of specific microbes relates to risk of preterm birth, more effective treatments can be developed. Preterm birth and its complications are the single greatest cause of infant deaths in the United States, Foxman said. An infection of the vagina, bacterial vaginosis, and of the mouth, periodontitis, have been associated with two or more fold increase in risk of preterm birth, but studies of treating these conditions during pregnancy show inconsistent results.

In another genome project, Yan Sun, assistant research scientist in epidemiology, was awarded $1.5 million to study the genetic variants in the human genome and their associations with cardiovascular diseases and hypertension, which have been inadequately studied in African Americans.

By coordinating two epidemiological studies, Sun’s group will investigate the characteristics of population genetics, and conduct genome-wide analyses to identify genomic loci associated with hypertension and its target-organ damages in kidney and heart, in two African American populations.

Marc Zimmerman, professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, and Jose Bauermeister, research assistant professor in HBHE, were awarded $926,262 to study virtual social networks and alcohol and drug use among young adults. Researchers use an Internet survey procedure to explore this technology for obtaining a nationally representative sample of young adults. In addition to those five, 12 other researchers in four departments and the dean’s office were awarded stimulus grants.

As of Oct. 31, the University of Michigan had received 342 ARRA awards, totaling $206.4 million. Updated list of grants.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health has been working to promote health and prevent disease since 1941, and is consistently ranked among the top five public health schools in the nation. Whether making new discoveries in the lab or researching and educating in the field, our faculty, students, and alumni are deployed around the globe to promote and protect our health.

Contact: Laura Bailey
Phone: (734) 647-1848