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News Release

January 2006

Carolina wins eight top NIH "Roadmap" grants, 
more than any other university in the country

Carolina has become the nation’s only university to receive eight grants in the National Institutes of Health "Roadmap for Medical Research" initiatives.

This effort encourages researchers to attack complex problems using interdisciplinary collaboration and sophisticated computational techniques to create quick translations to patient care.

Following Carolina were Vanderbilt and Columbia, with six; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with five; Johns Hopkins at four; Harvard and Stanford with three; and Duke with two.

UNC’s new funding through this program so far totals $15.5 million and includes starting the Carolina Center of Nanotechnology Excellence, which will marry expertise in nanotechnology with patient research at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Last year, Carolina also received three of the 21 initial Roadmap grants—more than any other university.

The NIH’s "Roadmap for Medical Research" represents a series of initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside. The highly competitive program provides a framework for NIH funding priorities and represents an attempt to make the country’s medical research system more efficient and productive.

Carolina will receive $11.6 million under the program and another $3.9 million to fund the Carolina Center of Nanotechnology Excellence. The National Cancer Institute will fund the nanotechnology center, and the NIH director's office will fund the rest to pay for much cutting-edge research and professional training at UNC.

"One of Carolina's great strengths is its commitment to interdisciplinary research focused on real-world problems," said Dr. Tony Waldrop, vice chancellor for research and economic development at UNC. "That commitment and the excellence of our faculty put us in a great position to compete for these awards."

The wide variety of topics represented in the awards exemplifies the breadth and diversity of the university's faculty and programs, Waldrop said.

Dr. Rudy Juliano, professor of pharmacology at the UNC School of Medicine and chair of the Carolina Roadmap Executive Committee, agreed that interdisciplinary collaboration has been a long-time hallmark of research at Carolina and a key to success in attracting outside funding.

"Our schools and colleges are all located in close proximity to each other, and investigators from different schools have worked productively together for many decades," Juliano said. "That is a tradition here. Last year, because of this close cooperation and sharing, Carolina faculty members won three large Roadmap grants."

With the emphasis the university has placed on supporting Roadmap and Roadmap-like efforts, it's no surprise that UNC investigators have done even better this year, he said. "To our knowledge, no other university has dedicated so much infrastructure to supporting interdisciplinary collaboration within the federal Roadmap initiative."

The new funding will range from one year to five years, said Juliano, who will lead the new nanotechnology center.

Besides him, new Roadmap grant recipients are Drs. Bruce D. Cuevas, research assistant professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine; Michael Jarstfer, assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy; Kuo-Hsiung Lee, Kenan professor of pharmacy and director of the School of Pharmacy’s Natural Products Laboratory; Eugene Orringer, professor of medicine and executive associate dean in the School of Medicine; Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition in the schools of public health and medicine and director of the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Program; David P. Siderovski, associate professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine; and Alexander Tropsha, professor in the School of Pharmacy.

"It's worth noting how different the successful Carolina applications are, the wide variety in interests represented by our new projects," Juliano said. "Dr.Orringer continues and diversifies his longstanding program in multidisciplinary clinical training, one of the bedrocks of the School of Medicine. Dr. Lee of the School of Pharmacy will create chemical diversity libraries of compounds derived from medicinal plants.

"Dr. Popkin and I both will be training postdoctoral fellows," he said. "His program, which will benefit scores of future scientists, clinicians and others in interdisciplinary obesity efforts, and mine will complement each other in taking on the challenges of clinical medicine. Drs. Siderovski, Jarstfer, Cuevas and Tropsha will build on Carolina's strength in basic science investigation with their new programs to develop better biomedical assays and to boost understanding of complex molecular interactions."

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