MISSOULA – A research center at the University of Montana recently was awarded $10.5 million from the National Institutes of Health.

            The major, five-year award will augment UM’s Center for Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, which works to unravel the molecular foundations of biological processes in health and disease. The funding is a Phase II NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) award.
            “Earning this award is a major success for our faculty,” said Stephen Sprang, the center director and a UM biology professor. “I want to thank everyone who helped us by proposing outstanding science, building productive core facilities and organizing vibrant activities.”
            He said the award will provide up to three years of research funding to four faculty investigators: Kasper Hansen, Celine Beamer and Philippe Diaz in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences (BMED), and Dong Wang in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. It also will fund research programs of BMED’s Travis Hughes and Andrea Stierle.
            The COBRE award also will support:
  • The BioSpectroscopy Research Laboratory directed by Sandy Ross and managed by Chelle Terwilliger.
  • The Molecular Computational Core directed by Nicholas Natale and managed by Dave Holley.
  •   The Protein Expression and X-ray Diffraction Core operated by Tung-Chung Mou.
  •  Small-molecule X-ray diffraction services provided by Orion Berryman. The nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry core facilities managed in part by Earle Adams.
            “Importantly, this funding will provide substantial startup funding for up to two new faculty hires,” Sprang said. “This will fulfill critical research and teaching needs in three basic and biomedical science-oriented UM departments. Our initial Phase I funding allowed us to hire five outstanding faculty members who already have done great things here at UM, and we expect similar results from the new additions.”
He said the funding also will support the Center for Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics administrative core, which provides pre- and post-grant award service and counseling to the UM researchers who so far have been awarded about $15 million in funding from grants submitted through the center.
            Funding also will continue support for the center’s seminar sponsorships, a research symposium, a summer graduate fellowship program and semi-annual grant workshops.
            “This COBRE II award provides another excellent boost to out vibrant and growing research enterprise here at UM,” said Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship. “The award demonstrates the NIH’s recognition of the leadership Dr. Sprang provided for the previous COBRE I award and the accomplishments of the faculty who were supported by that grant. I have full confidence that the faculty on this award will achieve even greater scientific accomplishments.”