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Grant to build biomedical resource network for scientists

Submitted by Diana Campbell
Phone: 907-474-5221

11/10/09

University of Alaska Fairbanks genetics graduate student Dominick Lemas would like to know more about the research other scientists are doing on the genetics of complex diseases.

Finding that information is a challenge. A comprehensive list does not exist. "It would be nice to go to somewhere and be able to search a database to find out what genetic resources are available," Lemas said.

For instance, Lemas is looking at how nutrition affects genes related to obesity in Yup'ik Eskimos. Finding a comprehensive list of other similar projects could help him save time, energy and money as he designs his own research.

A new consortium funded the by National Institutes of Health could soon help researchers like Lemas. The UAF Center for Alaska Native Health Research is part of the nine-institution consortium which received a $15 million grant from the NIH Center for Research Resources to develop a network to help researchers locate valuable but difficult-to-find resources for scientific research.

The network will use the principles of social networking to connect scientists with materials and technologies related to their research interests via a dedicated search engine. CANHR, part of UAF's Institute of Arctic Biology, will receive nearly $1.1 million over two years to identify and catalog past and present biomedical research in Alaska to add to a national database of resources, said CANHR director Gerald Mohatt.

"This is long overdue," Mohatt said. "Alaska has a lot to offer toward this project and we are pleased to be part of this important effort for the future of biomedical research."

Easily locating resources that could add another bit of knowledge is a problem for researchers and students everywhere because little such information has been centralized, Mohatt said. The effective advancement of science depends on efficient use of time and resources, he said.

This new consortium will seek to identify existing resources to create an easily searchable and consistent database. The database will not contain any research findings, but be a listing of research resources, including animal models, tissue banks, reagents and human health study protocols. The database will also have student research opportunities.

Each of the nine institutions will house their own databases. Harvard Medical School will develop a portal to access all of them. The portal will be available in about two years, with the long-term goal of enabling other institutions to add their own resource catalogs.

The program has been dubbed "eagle-i," a name offered by CANHR programmer Jacques Philip. CANHR will hire a data entry technician and a resource navigator who will compile the Alaska research while Philip will help with software design.

Consortium members include Dartmouth College, Harvard Medical School, Jackson State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Montana State University, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Puerto Rico, as well as UAF.

For more information about the project and the role of each participating institution can be found at http://www.ncrr.nih.gov/u24. The funding was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to NIH.

CONTACT: Diana Campbell, CANHR communication specialist, 907-474-5221 or dlcampbell@alaska.edu. Gerald Mohatt, CANHR director, 907-474-7927 or gvmohatt@alaska.edu. Jacques Philip, CANHR programmer, 907-474-6127 or jphilip@alaska.edu.

DC/11-10-09/081-10

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