North Carolina Central University (NCCU) has been awarded $16.3 million by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for a new Research Center in Minority Institutions (RCMI) focusing on elevating the university’s health disparities research program. Led by Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute and principal investigator for the grant, the funding will support health disparities research activities across campus at NCCU.
NCCU is one of the seven minority-serving institutions that were recipients of this award. The research funding is the largest annual grant amount received for a non-Title III grant by NCCU and the largest funding for a single principal investigator on the campus.
The new RCMI Center for Health Disparities Research (RCHDR) will conduct three innovative basic biomedical and behavioral research projects, along with health disparities research pilot projects, involving robust mentoring, development of core facilities and leveraging of resources and partnerships with community-based organizations and neighboring institutions in the Research Triangle area. The center will also promote a collaborative research environment conducive to career enhancement for postdoctoral trainees and NCCU faculty at all levels.
“This major research grant will allow North Carolina Central University to engage in transformative research that examines health disparities and identifies real-world solutions that strengthen health care for minority populations throughout our state,” said University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings. “Moreover, the establishment of the new Research Center in Minority Institutions supports our shared goal of enhancing research opportunities, which will ultimately improve the quality of life of our citizens and generate economic growth.
Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D., chancellor of NCCU, said, “The significant research funding provided by the National Institutes of Health elevates North Carolina Central University’s noteworthy work investigating solutions to some of the nation’s toughest health disparities that persist as challenges to communities of color. Through this grant, I am thrilled that Dr. Kumar and his team are already fulfilling three of the six strategic priorities represented in ‘The Eagle Promise’initiative, which focus on expanding research, facilitating innovative strategic partnerships with the Research Triangle Park and building new infrastructure for the university.”
The mission of NCCU’s Research Center in Minority Institutions is to develop and strengthen the research infrastructure at NCCU for conducting cutting-edge health disparities research and to foster the next generation of minority biomedical researchers. It has three main objectives: 1) enhance the research capacity at NCCU within the areas of basic, behavioral and translational biomedical research; 2) diversify the biomedical research workforce and to prepare researchers who are successful extramurally funded health disparities investigators and 3) promote a collaborative environment for interdisciplinary research and establish sustainable relationships with neighboring research and community-based organizations to advance cutting-edge health disparities research at NCCU. The core of the research center will focus on: African-American men, stress, kidney and cardiometabolic disease; breast cancer disparities and metabolic stress; diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome; community engagement and pilot projects and mentoring.
“NCCU demonstrated its commitment to biomedical research by creating two biotechnology research institutes, BBRI and BRITE,” stated Kumar. “We are grateful to NIH/NIMHD for providing NCCU with this unprecedented opportunity to further enhance biomedical research by developing infrastructure, preparing the next generation of minority researchers and bringing faculty together in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research projects to advance our mission of addressing health disparities. The grant will foster collaborations and leverage resources from research and community-based organizations from the Research Triangle area and in North Carolina. This is a team effort across campus that will impact five NCCU colleges and schools, along with BBRI and BRITE. I am excited about Chancellor Akinleye’s ‘The Eagle Promise’ initiative and am grateful for his support and vision.”
In a press release announcing the award, NIMHD Director, Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable said: “Institutions with historical commitment to diversity are essential to supporting scientific research and providing healthcare to underserved communities. These institutions are uniquely positioned to engage minority populations in research, and in the translation of research advances into culturally competent, measurable and sustained improvements in health outcomes.”