Medical school researchers obtain $6 million to investigate heart disease

JABSOM grants fuel work at Center for Cardiovascular Research

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina M. Shelton, (808) 692-0897
Director of Communications, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Posted: Nov 26, 2012

Researcher Cindy Anderson in JABSOM's Cardiovascular Center
Researcher Cindy Anderson in JABSOM's Cardiovascular Center

Everyone knows someone who is battling heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States and the developed world. And it is increasing rapidly in the developing world as well. But Dr. Ralph Shohet, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research at UH Mānoa's John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), is optimistic that new scientific insights will help us treat and prevent heart disease in the future. Dr. Shohet recently received two large grants from the National Institutes of Health, one supporting the laboratories and another for training young investigators.

These two grants will bring in more than $6 million over the next five years to pay researchers and staff as well as help cover related university expenses.. 

The Center for Cardiovascular Research is one of three "Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence" at JABSOM. The investigators find the cutting-edge work at the Cardiovascular Center invigorating.

"There is nothing more exciting than exploring biology and especially human disease biology with the tools of molecular science these days," said Shohet, Endowed Professor and Director of the Center. "It's exciting because we are understanding at a basic level how our heart works and how it goes wrong and how to prevent or treat problems which develop. Those discoveries, involving what is the leading cause of death and disability in our community, are really what drive us and keep us tap-dancing into work each morning.”

The new funding is another reason to love the job these days. The Center recently received five more years of funding from the National Institutes of Health as a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). They also just received a training grant from the Heart Lung and Blood Institute, called a “T-32,” which supports graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Both of these large grants will also help to fuel Hawai`i’s economy.

"The COBRE program will bring about $700,000 a year for salaries. It will support three skilled technicians and about a half dozen other people who will get some salary support while working in our center," said Shohet.

According to Shohet, the training program starts out with three students and moves up to five students by the third year and is a total of about a million dollars over five years. "That will pay the salaries of those students as they are learning about basic cardiovascular mechanisms and insights that will help us understand heart disease," he said.

Shohet said all the investigators in the laboratory have a sense that they are participating in a global effort to understand important problems with the very powerful new techniques that researcers now have available.

With cardiovascular disease Hawai`i’s leading cause of death, understanding, treating and preventing it would be the best investment of all. 

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