Written by Sarah Gluck
Certain regions of the United States have historically been more research-focused than others – for decades, the NIH has been working to develop research programs across the entire United States and US territories. One way underserved states can develop their research programs is through an Institutional Development Award (IDeA), a program sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).
“Many states with small ‘primarily undergraduate institutions’ (PUIs) had little capacity to participate in biomedical research,” according to Kansas-INBRE Director Dr. Douglas Wright. The IDeA program has four main components, including the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE). “These INBRE programs have been very successful in integrating research at all levels, from PUIs to research-intensive institutions,” explained Dr. Wright.
Last month, NRMN Executive Director Rafael Luna had the opportunity to visit two INBRE conferences of the Southeast and Western regions, to share information about NRMN and determine ways in which we can foster collaboration. In many ways, our missions are similar – both NRMN and INBRE both support underrepresented minorities in biomedical science, and understand the importance of mentoring. Dr. Wright agrees: “Mentoring in science is a critically important aspect…many undergraduates don’t have a similar opportunity to learn about careers in biomedical research, what training you need, and possibilities in career choices.”
Since it’s founding in 2003, INBRE has provided support to primarily undergraduate institutions. Each IDEA-eligible state establishes a collaborative network of research institutions and universities, which center around a primary Lead institution. This support ranges from improving research infrastructure and core facilities and providing research support for young faculty, to summer internships for undergraduates.
Caroline Iverson, the Recruitment and Research Support Liaison for Mississippi-INBRE, shared that their program alone has trained 496 undergraduates to date: over half are Black, and 70% are women. They have partnered with a community health program, My Brothers Keeper, which has co-trained 111 students, of which 86% are Black. INBRE programs are open to all, and especially welcome students who are from underrepresented groups in biomedical science.
Since 2015, Executive Director Rafael Luna has visited 10 out of 21 INBRE states, and Puerto Rico, to promote both our networks of mentors and mentees to reach out and support each other. NRMN hopes for continued collaborations, and we encourage our network, especially those within IDeA states, to seek out more information.