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NIH grant gives boost to bioscience research facility

Submitted by John Blake
Phone: (907) 474-5188

12/01/05

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded $3.8 million to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to finish space in the $19 million Biological Research and Diagnostics facility. BiRD is a 42,000-square-foot animal care facility that will provide much-needed space for the expansion of UAF's biomedical and behavioral science programs including infectious disease, environmental health and toxicology and mammal hibernation.

"This new animal facility is part of a program to build on federal initiatives supporting new biomedical and behavioral science research at UAF," said John Blake, UAF's attending veterinarian. "Our current facilities no longer meet the requirements of our research faculty. This grant will finish critical space."

Funding comes from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of NIH, which has announced that it will award nearly $30 million for ten projects as part of an effort to build bioscience facilities across the United States.

"These grants are highly competitive," said George Happ, state director of Alaska EPSCoR and INBRE, two programs designed to stimulate research. "The UAF award represents more than 10 percent of the total NIH construction grants awarded this year. That really says something."

A recent National Science Foundation study documents the need for infrastructure improvements at biomedical research facilities. According to NSF, more than half the institutions that conduct biological or medical research have inadequate space to meet their research needs. UAF is no exception.

In addition, UAF has requested $64.5 million for a new Biological Sciences (BioS) Facility to support rapidly growing research and teaching space needs in the biological and health sciences.

The State Virology Lab, a joint effort between the Alaska Division of Public Health and UAF, will be built to the north of the BiRD facility and connected at the ground and lower levels. The facility will provide additional collaborative research opportunities and diagnostic testing for state agencies.

The biological sciences program at UAF is still growing rapidly and continues to successfully build research capacity and competitiveness in the biomedical and health sciences. Current UAF proposals in this area total nearly $29 million.

"The growth in UAF biosciences promises to transform our undergraduate and graduate programs as we develop pre-professional courses in biology, biochemistry and psychology, and attract and train students to meet expanding workforce needs for health delivery, medical technology and clinical counseling in Alaska," said Brian Barnes, director of UAF's Institute of Arctic Biology.

"UAF, because of its access to and research experience working with migrating waterfowl, is also partnering with state and federal scientists in the UA avian influenza monitoring program led by Happ. UAF is uniquely poised to make significant national and international contributions," said Barnes.

Contact: John Blake, director research integrity at (907) 474-5188 or e-mail ffjeb@uaf.edu or Marmian Grimes at (907) 474-7902 or e-mail marmian.grimes@uaf.edu.