Funded by a five-year, $9.3M grant from the National Institute of Health’s Office of Research Infrastructure Programs, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is looking to create the new Center for Precision Animal Modeling. Here’s what we know.
A multi-million dollar grant
The $9.3M grant comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the U.S. Government’s primary agencies responsible for public health research. This year, the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs launched a new, highly-competitive program. Its goal? To fund national centers for Precision Disease Modeling.
Led by Brad Yoder, Ph.D., and Matt Might, Ph.D., UAB submitted a 15-member team to the program. Due to UAB’s national recognition, the NIH selected UAB as one of the pilot centers. Yoder serves as the chair of the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, while Might serves as a professor in the UAB Department of Medicine and director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute.
The UAB Center for Precision Animal Modeling is one of only three centers in the country funded by the NIH’s program.
What is Precision Animal Modeling?
According to the National Institutes of Health, “each Center consists of an interdisciplinary research team of scientists and physicians organized to address specific medical problems by creating new animal models to more precisely mimic patient-specific disease processes and to develop innovative treatment options.”
Essentially, Precision Animal Modeling involves the re-creation of a specific patient’s experience with a disease. By using yeast, worms, fruit flies, zebrafish, frogs, mice or rats, reachers can study the effect of various treatments in the animal model, and can more accurately recommend best treatments for the human patient.
Animal models has been intertwined with scientific research for centuries. However, recent advances in genetic engineering allow this research to be directly available to physicians and their patients, on a case-by-case basis.
According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Center will consist of five interconnected components: Coordinating Component; Pre/Co-Clinical Component; Bioinformatics Component; Disease Modeling Unit; Resource and Services Component.
What does this mean for UAB?
According to Yoder and Might, the funding for the UAB Center for Precision Animal Modeling is, “a recognition of UAB’s national reputation for leadership in both precision medicine and model organism research.”
The Center for Precision Animal Modeling will allow UAB’s physicians to request custom animal models for certain patients, which will allow them to better understand the effects of the disease—and which treatments would work best.
Yoder and Might hope that C-PAM will bolster UAB’s existing expertise, and create a national resource for new and innovative treatment of diseases in patients.