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Morgan State University has received a $23.3-million BUILD award, one of 12 announced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
According to university sources, this funding is the second largest in its history and the highest yet from the NIH.

The NIH Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) program is a set of experimental training awards designed to learn how to attract diverse students into biomedical research and encourage them to become contributors to the NIH-funded research enterprise.

BUILD encourages institutions to incorporate innovative methods that engage and prepare students for success, including those who might not choose biomedical research careers. Students are encouraged to think creatively about how to address identified needs at their institutions and develop visionary approaches that encompass institutional, social, and individual factors.

Researchers from Morgan State won the NIH award with a competitive research training method that allows students to engage in biomedical research in creative ways and encourages excitement about pursuing a career in biomedical research.

Unlike apprenticeship models,  Morgan’s “A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development” or ASCEND training model gives students room to take ownership of their training by proposing and selecting their topic of research, developing the research methods, writing small grants, and moving the project forward. The model has been tested in international environments with great success.

“Morgan has a very good track record of enhancing diversity in the sciences in Maryland and around the country and this is the goal of the NIH initiative,” said university President David Wilson. “We believe that winning this competitive award is recognition by NIH and others that the best way to bring more minorities into the sciences is with best practices, programs that work. And Morgan has surely proven that it has the ability to show how it is done.”

Morgan State will establish a dedicated environment, where student researchers can exchange ideas and enjoy substantial peer support. Additionally, using this award, MSU plans to strengthen its training and research infrastructure, create Active Learning Centers, improve science curricula, and acquire state-of-the-art educational technology, all aimed at providing a highly enhanced training in science and biomedical research.

Morgan’s research partners are Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, the Intramural Program of NIH, Tufts University, Lehigh, and Northeastern University. The award calls for $2.9-million in the first year and more than $5-million in each of the next four years. Successful execution of the project may allow for a potential five-year renewal.

“The NIH and Morgan, along with its partners, are of one accord when it comes to the ultimate goal of this five-year award,” added President Wilson. “It is to increase diversity in biomedical research by implementing highly innovative methods to train students from underrepresented minority backgrounds. We believe in the mission and understand how very important this is today.”

“While past efforts to diversify our workforce have had significant impact on individuals, we have not made substantial progress in supporting diversity,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH. “This program will test new models of training and mentoring so that we can ultimately attract the best minds from all groups to biomedical research.”

Senator Barbara Mikulski, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee which funds NIH, said the partnership between NIH and Morgan State is a smart investment in the future of Maryland life science jobs.

“The impact is in our communities where new leaders in research and innovation will develop new ideas becoming new businesses that support jobs today and jobs tomorrow. I will continue to fight to keep our state and our nation a superpower in the global economy with a super-educated workforce,” Senator Mikulski said.

Senator Ben Cardin lauded the opportunity to foster next generation biomedical researchers, scientists, and clinicians.

“I’ve been a proud partner with Morgan State University as they strengthen their STEM education programs and reach into our communities to make a difference in people’s lives. Diversifying our biomedical workforce will help mitigate many of the inherent disparities of our health care system,” he said.

U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district, Elijah E. Cummings, and a member of Morgan State’s Board of Regents said he looked forward to the positive impact on both students and the broader community

“Promoting diversity in biomedical research ensures that a range of views is always present in the important studies undertaken in this field. This award will support the training of bright young minds who are often underrepresented in biomedical science,” he said.

BUILD awards emphasize research opportunities for students because exposure to meaningful research experiences is associated with improved academic performance and sustained interest in biomedical research careers.

According to Dr. Victor McCrary, Morgan’s vice president for research and economic development, the NIH BUILD Award affirms Morgan’s commitment to faculty and student research, “leading to innovative outcomes which will transform our Maryland communities as we focus on the future in creating a biomedical workforce with the technical prowess to make critical research contributions to our nation’s challenges,” he said.

“We are pleased that the NIH reviewers agree with us that this is a radically novel program.  We aspire to be leaders in training a new generation of biomedical researchers and to make a substantial impact at the national level,” said Dr. Farin Kamangar, the lead investigator of this project.

Morgan State is one of top five universities nationwide in the number of undergraduate degrees awarded to African Americans each year.

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