Campus: CSU San Marcos -- October 22, 2004

NIH Supplements Cal State San Marcos Faculty Grant with $1.26 Million

Cal State San Marcos has received $1,260,000 in supplemental funding to an existing four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-through their Minority Biomedical Research Support SCORE Program-to advance professional development and research efforts of faculty doing work within the field of biomedical sciences.

The existing grant was awarded in 2003 and provides $3.6 million in funding toward three programs through 2007. The supplemental funding will provide three years of support to two additional programs and extend the scope of a currently funded SCORE grant.

Approximately $1 million will support three years of research by Jacqueline Trischman, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Denise Garcia, Department of Biological Sciences.

Trischman is involved in a marine product study related to the treatment of tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is the leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide. As resistance to current chemotherapies is increasing at an alarming rate, antibiotics with novel mechanisms of action are essential to control this epidemic. Considerable evidence indicates that marine bacteria present a valuable resource in the search for such novel antibiotic compounds. The ongoing research in the Trischman lab uses Mycobacterium marinum, a close relative of M. tuberculosis, to induce antibiotic production by marine bacteria. Once produced, the compounds responsible for the antibiotic activity are purified and their structures are determined. The overall goal is to identify new compounds that could be helpful in the fight against tuberculosis.

In her research, Garcia is looking at the impact of retrotransposons, or "jumping genes," in genomes of a certain type of shrimp, Penaeus stylirostris. Retrotransposons are sequences of DNA that are easily and naturally copied from one location in the genome and inserted elsewhere. Garcia is interested in whether or not these jumping genes play a role in viral infections that seriously endanger shrimps stocks globally. According to the researcher, "Preliminary data indicates that stress may induce retrotransposon expression in shrimp." Using shrimp injected with a virus, she investigates how the genome is impacted, and how that in turn impacts the health of the animal. Ultimately, she is interested in determining if there are ways of turning these genes off, thus possibly protecting shrimp stocks from viral outbreaks.

The remainder of the supplement grant will be used by Thomas Wahlund and Betsy Read, Department of Biological Sciences, to enhance their current SCORE-funded research into the genetic makeup of certain marine algae, Emiliana huxleyi, which are distinguished by an intricate armor they construct of calcium carbonate. According to Wahlund, "The results of our studies will contribute toward understanding the design principles of biomineralized calcium carbonate structures, and thus will provide models for novel synthesis and processing strategies for producing materials for biomedical applications." The supplemental funding will allow them to involve computer scientists in the project. Their genetic research results in large quantities of data that need to be deciphered and warehoused. To do this, they require the expertise of computer scientists and the power of information technology.

The purpose of the SCORE Program, according to the NIH, "is to develop biomedical research faculty at minority-serving institutions who are committed to improving competitive research programs and increasing the number of underrepresented minorities professionally engaged in biomedical research."

Each project will also provide research training and education for Cal State San Marcos students preparing for advanced education and careers in the broad field of biomedical research.

The university received its first SCORE grant in 1999. At the time, the $3.6 million grant was the largest grant ever awarded to the university.

The supplement grant proposal effort was lead by Victor Rocha who directs the Office for Biomedical Research and Training (OBRT). OBRT provides a supportive multicultural environment for student and faculty career development in the biomedical sciences and related disciplines. OBRT sponsors programs that focus on science education, student support services, research training, and research participation. According to Rocha, OBRT is part of an effort to "make Cal State San Marcos the institution of choice for students interested in the biomedical sciences." More information about OBRT is available at 760/750-4084 or www.csusm.edu/obrt.

Contact: Paige Jennings, 760/750-4048; pjenning@csusm.edu


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