Researchers at UND’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence have learned they will continue to receive federal funding totaling more than $10.7 million for an ongoing project.

The funding comes from the National Institutes of Health, and is for a years-long project on viral, bacterial and parasitic infections leading to acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. Phase 1 of the project began with a similar funding award in 2016, and work is continuing in Phase 2.

Colin Combs, department chair of the biomedical sciences department, and David Bradley, a professor in that department, said they were relieved when they heard they would receive funding for the next five years of the project. Getting research funding is a competitive process, they said, but the NIH award is an affirmation of the success of researchers working on the project.

“Getting (research grants) renewed in the first round is still not the norm,” Bradley said. “To get it renewed on the first round was exciting and I think is a readout of the excellent people and the excellent things that are involved.”

Researchers at the CoBRE are working to more deeply understand the natures of a variety of infectious diseases, from the flu to Lyme disease to COVID-19. They are also working to better understand how gut bacteria can have an impact on allergies, among other things.

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Through Phase 1, that research has resulted in 169 publications, $23,617,386 in extramural funding and 74 speaking engagements at local, national and international conferences. The end result will be for the research to be used to devise better treatments for some infectious diseases.

The grant money will make continuing research possible, as well as pay for state-of-the-art equipment to aid researchers, and the rest of UND’s campus, Combs said. It will also help raise UND’s profile. People at the CoBRE, Combs continued, want to see it become a magnet for talented researchers and students.

“We'd like students to feel like this is the place to come to be trained,” Combs said.

Once Phase 2 has been completed, there is the possibility of continuing it into a Phase 3, though NIH funding at that point may not yield a grant of the similar size. Still, Combs and Bradley have every intention of going for it.

“If we work as hard, and are as successful as we were in phase one, we have every reason to be cautiously optimistic,” Bradley said.