UNL Redox Biology Center receives $10.8 million from NIH

Released on 08/27/2007, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Monday, Aug. 27, 2007

WHERE: Van Brunt Visitors Center

Lincoln, Neb., August 27th, 2007 —

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received a $10.8 million competitive renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the Redox Biology Center through 2012.

An interdisciplinary partnership between UNL and University of Nebraska Medical Center scientists, the center was the first of its kind in the nation to focus on redox biology. Redox biology involves the study of reduction-oxidation reactions that are essential to life processes important in human health. Understanding redox processes and problems has implications for treating a wide range of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cardiovascular disease, as well as advancing knowledge of aging.

Since its establishment in 2002 with a $10 million Center for Biomedical Research Excellence grant from NIH, the Redox Biology Center has helped Nebraska build a national reputation of excellence in redox biology research.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said the center has enhanced Nebraska's biomedical research capacity by linking faculty research efforts at UNL and UNMC.

"In the five years since its inception, the center has developed a nationally recognized program in redox biology. It has positively changed the biomedical research landscape in Nebraska by energizing a shift in the research culture toward interdisciplinary, thematic, collaborative research, particularly with colleagues at UNMC. The importance of that shift cannot be overstated," Perlman said.

In the past year, center faculty at UNL and UNMC garnered $7.4 million in grants. Since 2002, the nine original faculty members and five new faculty recruits funded by the original grant generated nearly $27 million in grants. The number of faculty affiliates has grown from nine in 2002 to 16 in 2007, with five more planned hires funded by the grant renewal. Researchers have published their findings in leading scientific journals including "Science" and "Nature." In 2006, the center was named a university Program of Excellence.

Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research, credited the center's early success to the faculty who worked together to create an interdisciplinary culture.

"The center's progress in a relatively short time is remarkable," he said. "It's a great example of the innovation, ideas and scientific progress that grow from working together across disciplines and institutions. We simply could not have accomplished this without collaboration and faculty leadership."

Hard work during the first five years positioned the center well for the future, Paul said. The $10.8 million NIH renewal grant will enable the center to continue building the capacity in the nationally and internationally recognized program of excellence in redox biology. Specific goals include expanding research expertise by targeted faculty recruitment in key areas and continuing a successful junior faculty mentoring program.

Vadim Gladyshev, Charles Bessey professor and professor of biochemistry who is one of the center's founding faculty, became the center's director this summer, succeeding founding director Ruma Banerjee.

"We have great opportunities in front of us as we continue to build our research capabilities," Gladyshev said. "In the long run, the redox-related questions we're all exploring have the potential of improving human health."

Hiring new faculty in selected disciplines "will strengthen the center and allow us to expand into new horizons in redox biology," Gladyshev said.

One of the new faculty recruited to help build UNL's redox expertise is Mark Wilson. An assistant professor of biochemistry, Wilson came to UNL two years ago specifically to join the center. Its concentration of experts aids his investigation into the role of oxidative stress in Parkinson's disease.

"It's a very rare and valuable concentration of experience," Wilson said. "Everyone is looking at different aspects of the same broad phenomena using a variety of tools. There's a lot of collaboration going on."

The center is based at UNL. Faculty in addition to Gladyshev and Wilson affiliated with the center are: James Alfano, Joseph Barycki, Donald Becker, Liangcheng Du, Jaekwon Lee, Marjorie Lou, Ashraf Raza, Greg Somerville and Julie Stone from UNL, and Howard Gendelman, Ming-Fong Lin, George Rozanski, Harold Schultz and Matthew Zimmerman from UNMC. Faculty represent the departments of biochemistry, chemistry, plant pathology and veterinary and biomedical sciences at UNL and the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, pharmacology and experimental neuroscience and cellular and integrative physiology at UNMC. Adjunct faculty are Martin Dickman of Texas A&M and Mark Thomas of University of Northern Colorado.

The center has an external advisory board composed of five eminent scientists, three of whom are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Contacts: Vadim Gladyshev, Redox Biology Center director, (402) 472-4948; Prem Paul, Vice Chancellor for Research, (402) 472-3123