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MaineHealth Awarded $12.9M Center Grant Renewal by the NIH

PORTLAND, ME (August 4, 2023) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded MaineHealth a five-year, $12.9 million renewal of its Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Metabolic Networks grant. The funding will advance research infrastructure for the study of metabolic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and lipid and energy imbalances. 

This grant renewal will allow the MaineHealth Institute for Research (MHIR) to build upon the success of its COBRE, which was established through a five-year, $11 million NIH grant in 2017. In the first five years of the COBRE, MHIR researchers studied how metabolically active tissues, including fat, bone and the brain, use energy and control overall metabolism in the body, and how this is altered during disease.

In these next five years, researchers will study the impact different kinds of fat tissue may have on diabetes, how bariatric surgery to treat metabolic disease affects bone health and the effects of night shift work on gestational diabetes during pregnancy and beyond. As these researchers obtain independent grants, new opportunities will become available to support additional investigators who study metabolic diseases that are prevalent in Maine and across the country.

 “Our goal is to make new discoveries that can serve the health and medical needs of our communities, while continuing to recruit and support the research careers of junior investigators,” said Lucy Liaw, PhD, faculty scientist at MHIR and the principal investigator for this grant. “We do that by providing a strong advisory and mentorship network for our researchers and high quality shared scientific resources. This foundation launches the career of faculty researchers, who create opportunities for our workforce and train the next generation of researchers.” 

Four investigators who began their careers with funding through the COBRE now lead their own grant-funded research: Katie Motyl PhD, Aaron Brown PhD, Michaela Reagan PhD – all at MHIR – and Christine Lary, PhD, a research associate professor at the Roux Institute at Northeastern University and adjunct faculty scientist at MHIR.

 “Being a project leader on the COBRE helped me to develop lifelong collaborations with outstanding scientists and taught me the value of team science,” Motyl said. “Working together as a group, the COBRE team accomplished much more than we could have if we were all working independently.”

 The grant renewal will continue to develop the careers of young scientists. The program also brings state-of-the-art molecular, cellular and physiological technologies to research communities at MaineHealth and across the state. 

“We are grateful for the support of the NIH Institutional Development Award program, which funds Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence,” said Elizabeth Jacobs, MD, Vice President for Research at MaineHealth. “The work done at this COBRE is central to our mission of improving the health of our patients and communities by providing high-quality affordable care, educating tomorrow’s caregivers and researching better ways to provide care.” 

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM121301. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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