USM announces renewal of $19 million INBRE program

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Mississippi INBRE, a National Institute of General Medical Sciences health project, has been housed at Southern Miss since 2001. On Friday, Sept. 14, Southern Miss announced the continuation of the program, which will allow Mississippi researchers and students to continue enhancing biomedical research in the state.

The program, Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, which is funded by NIGMS’ Institutional Development Awards. It is a statewide program that aims to increase opportunities for students to participate in biomedical research within the state. 

Biochemistry professor Gordon Cannon, Ph.D., said INBRE has brought in over $70 million to the university since its inception in 2001. Although INBRE is led from Southern Miss, it also impacts 30 colleges, universities and community colleges in the state.

“INBRE has created 37 research labs, primarily in undergraduate institutions such as Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Millsaps College, Mississippi University for Women and Tougaloo College,”Cannon said. “These are labs that would not be there if we had to depend completely on state funding.”

Mississippi’s INBRE program also aims to engage in community outreach through a partnership with My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. in Jackson, Mississippi.

“In 2013, My Brother’s Keeper partnered with INBRE to create a new pathway for students,”  June Gibson, Ph.D., President and CEO of MBK, said.

“We wanted to ensure the students were able to be eclectic and understand what has to happen in the state of Mississippi. We wanted well-rounded, solution-oriented students, and from this proposal we have developed service scholars.”

Service scholars, according to Gibson, are students that have been trained to understand that regardless of labs, research and data, there is another person on the other end.

“These efforts have changed how health care is actually provided in the state of Mississippi,” Gibson said. “It’s changed us as a community based organization who is now able to provide more access to communities that were [previously left behind] in healthcare in Mississippi.”

Through the partnership between the INBRE program and MBK, approximately 30 students per year have been trained in public health principles and how they intersect with biomedical research for the past five years.

“I’m proud of this relationship, and I look forward to many more years [of partnership],” Gibson said.

Director of Mississippi INBRE Mohamed Elasri, Ph.D., described three major efforts in which the program accomplishes its goals.

“The mission of our program is to increase the capacity for biomedical research in the whole state,”Elasri said. “As you know, we have a lot of health issues as a state, and [National Institutes of Health] found that it is important to inject some resources into the state to improve the capacity to do research in various biomedical fields.”

INBRE has built new research labs throughout Mississippi. According to Elsari, these labs have been so productive that they are now bringing in extramural funding.

The second main component of INBRE is training the state’s workforce.

“The idea is that, as a state, if we want to compete in the future and improve things, we have to grow our own [workforce],” Elasri said. “We have a lot of bright students throughout the state that do not have access to research. The idea is to reach out to as many schools in the state to ensure that they have an opportunity to do research and hopefully become researchers [in biomedicine].”

The third component of INBRE is community engagement.

The ultimate goal of Mississippi INBRE is to train students to work with the community, specifically underserved communities in Mississippi, and teach them how to interact with patients in a public health setting.

“USM has been tremendously supportive of this program,” Elasri said. “It is led here and really could not have happened without the support of the university.”