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Morgan Wins Prestigious $23.3 Million Biomedical Research and Training Award

For immediate release:
October 22, 2014

Clinton R. Coleman

Morgan State University (MSU) received a $23.3-million award, the second largest competitive award in its history and the highest from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Morgan’s award is one of 12 announced today by the NIH totaling $31-million in fiscal year 2014 to develop new approaches that engage researchers, including those from backgrounds underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. The purpose of the awards is to not only attract more minorities into the biomedical sciences but also to encourage their success in the NIH-funded work environment.

“While past efforts to diversify our workforce have had significant impact on individuals, we have not made substantial progress in supporting diversity,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of NIH. “This program will test new models of training and mentoring so that we can ultimately attract the best minds from all groups to biomedical research.”

The NIH points to social science research suggesting that a fundamental shift in the way scientists are trained and mentored is required to attract and sustain the interest of people from underrepresented groups in the scientific workforce at all career stages.

“Morgan has a very good track record of enhancing diversity in the sciences in Maryland and around the country and this is the goal of the NIH initiative,” said university President David Wilson. “We believe that winning this competitive award is recognition by NIH and others that the best way to bring more minorities into the sciences is with best practices, programs that work. And Morgan has surely proven that it has the ability to show how it is done.”

“In order to out-build and out-innovate the rest of the world, we must first out-educate,” said U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee which funds NIH and who is an advocate of the BUILD Program because of its positive impact on life sciences workforce diversity. “Morgan State is on the front lines of preparing a diverse biotech workforce for in-demand jobs right here in Maryland. This partnership between NIH and Morgan State, one of Maryland’s and the nation’s great historically black colleges and universities, is a smart investment in the future of Maryland life science jobs. The impact of this partnership goes beyond the lab. The impact is in our communities where new leaders in research and innovation will develop new ideas becoming new businesses that support jobs today and jobs tomorrow. I will continue to fight to keep our state and our nation a super power in the global economy with a super educated workforce.”

“One of the top five universities nationally in the number of undergraduate degrees awarded to African Americans each year, more schools should follow Morgan State University’s lead in how well it prepares all its students in the skills needed for success in today’s economy. NIH has selected the very best as a partner to foster the next generation of biomedical researchers, scientists and clinicians. Diversifying our biomedical workforce will help mitigate many of the inherent disparities of our health care system,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. “I’ve been a proud partner with Morgan State University as they strengthen their STEM education programs and reach deep into our communities to make a difference in people’s lives.”

“Promoting diversity in biomedical research ensures that a range of views is always present in the important studies undertaken in this field. This award will support the training of bright young minds who are often underrepresented in biomedical science,” said Congressman Elijah Cummings. “I am confident this grant will enhance the outstanding educational opportunities at Morgan, and as a member of the University’s Board of Regents I look forward to the positive impact it will have on both students and the broader community.”

“The NIH BUILD Award affirms Morgan’s commitment to faculty and student research, leading to innovative outcomes which will transform our Maryland communities as we focus on the future in creating a biomedical workforce with the technical prowess to make critical research contributions to our Nation’s challenges”, according to Dr. Victor R. McCrary, Morgan’s vice president for research and economic development.

Researchers from Morgan State University have designed an innovative research training method that it calls, “A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development (ASCEND) Training Model.” This method provides students with considerable room to be creative and to acquire entrepreneurial skills in research. The University will establish a dedicated environment, where student researchers can exchange ideas and enjoy substantial peer support. Additionally, using this award, MSU plans to strengthen its training and research infrastructure, create Active Learning Centers, improve science curricula, and acquire state-of-the-art educational technology, all aimed at providing a highly enhanced training in science and biomedical research.

“We are pleased that the NIH reviewers agree with us that this is a radically novel program.  We aspire to be leaders in training a new generation of biomedical researchers and to make a substantial impact at the national level,” said Dr. Farin Kamangar, the lead investigator of this project.

Unlike apprenticeship models, Morgan’s ASCEND training model allows students to be creative and take ownership of their training by proposing and selecting their topic of research, developing the research methods, writing small grants, and moving the project forward. The model has been tested in international environments with great success. The overall goal is to create a university atmosphere that will allow students to engage in biomedical research in ways that promote creativity among students and encourages excitement about pursuing a career in biomedical research.

“The NIH and Morgan, along with its partners, are of one accord when it comes to the ultimate goal of this five-year award,” added President Wilson. “It is to increase diversity in biomedical research by implementing highly innovative methods to train students from underrepresented minority backgrounds. We believe in the mission and understand how very important this is today.”

Morgan’s research partners on the project are Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, the Intramural Program of NIH, Tufts University, Lehigh University, and Northeastern University. The award calls for $2.9-million in the first year and more than $5-million in each of the next four years. Successful execution of the project may allow for a potential five-year renewal.

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie classified doctoral research institution offering more than 60 academic programs leading to bachelor’s degrees as well as programs at the master’s and doctoral levels. As Maryland’s public urban university, Morgan serves a multi-ethnic and multi-racial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information on Morgan State University, visit

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