LSU Health Shreveport’s largest program grant ever is getting even bigger. Dr. Dennis J. O’Callaghan, Boyd Professor and Head of the Department of Microbiology, has been awarded a 5-year grant of more than $4.82 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue and expand the capabilities of the institution’s Center for Molecular and Tumor Virology (CMTV). The funding comes from the NIH’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program. The Health Sciences Center has received $22.9 million in COBRE funding since 2003.
Across the country, dollars for research are dwindling. It’s even harder for young researchers to secure competitive, national grants without prior awards to their name. CMTV, which is presently comprised of 18 faculty members from LSU Health Shreveport, LSU Shreveport and the University of Louisiana at Monroe, has allowed Dr. O’Callaghan and other senior faculty members to mentor young scientists and provide the necessary research equipment and facilities for their work. The new funding will allow for this central mission to continue with the establishment of a Pilot Project Program, which will award four grants of $50,000 annually in a competitive process. These Pilot Project awards will allow deserving faculty to develop new areas of research, paving the way for larger research grants.
The goal of the young scientists and faculty alike at the CMTV is to research molecular and tumor virology. Viruses continue to cause an array of diseases, resulting in enormous human death and suffering in both the developed and developing world. In recent years, many new and reemerging viruses have played major roles in human disease. Understanding these viruses can lead to breakthroughs on treatments, prevention. The CMTV's expansion in tumor virology also helps research initiatives at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center.
“Campus leaders have really been supportive of the idea that research at the molecular level is essential if we are to understand how cancer develops, how a virus can alter and kill the cell, and which molecules in a cancer cell or an infected cell should be targeted by new drugs in treatment of the patient,” noted Dr. O’Callaghan, who is an internationally renowned virologist.
More About CMTV
Since 2003, the faculty members of the Center for Molecular and Tumor Virology have trained a total of 37 Postdoctoral Fellows and 35 graduate students (26 PhD graduates and 9 MS graduates). At present, 26 Postdoctoral Fellows and PhD students are in training in the laboratories of the present 18 CMTV faculty members. Importantly the Center’s senior faculty members have mentored a large number of junior faculty members who have developed nationally competitive research programs, secured outside funding, attained promotion in academic rank, and contributed new information about important disease-causing viruses of man and animals.
The CMTV has also been a major recruitment tool with faculty members hailing from top-tier laboratories at institutions such as Harvard Medical School, Dartmouth University School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, Northwestern University School of Medicine and Baylor Medical College.
Dr. O’Callaghan stresses that the operation of the Center is a team effort in which senior faculty members interact closely and daily with junior faculty members, Postdoctoral Fellows and graduate students to offer advice and establish collaborative research efforts. The members of the Center interact frequently in a weekly seminar, weekly Virology Journal Club, a Fortnightly Research Conference, and a yearly Virology Colloquium.
The Center supports the visits of international leaders in virology who share information and establish research collaborations. The Center also is interdisciplinary in that members who work in tumor virology are also members of the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, and Dr. Lindsey Hutt-Fletcher of the CMTV directs the Tumor Virology within the Cancer Center. In addition, several ongoing research projects of CMTV faculty concern the role of viruses in cardiovascular diseases, and CMTV members also play a role in the research program of the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences.
Lastly, Dr. O’Callaghan noted that the Center fosters interactive research with CMTV scientists at LSUS. LSUS researchers process and analyze large volumes of molecular data from CMTV experiments.
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