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Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies Cooperative Agreement with NCCU (2010-2020, 2022-2027)

The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has funded a cooperative agreement between faculties of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and the North Carolina Central University (NCCU). This U54 agreement, “Partnerships to Enhance Alcohol Research Across NCCU and UNC (PEAR-NC),” will strengthen NCCU alcohol research by mentoring multiple laboratories, building infrastructure, and involving many NCCU students in projects that will enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce.  The principal investigators, Dr. Greg Cole and Dr. Fulton Crews, from NCCU and UNC respectively, have developed alcohol research capacity at NCCU and mentored faculty and students to success, although NIAAA ended the program in 2020, creating a gap in funding.  In 2022 we added new junior faculty, a leadership transition plan to establish diverse “role models,” a new Student Mentoring and Research Experiences Core, as well as 3 full and 1 small research projects.  This new iteration integrates existing collaborative partnerships with multiple new NCCU and UNC PI collaborators to mentor productive projects to independent alcohol research funding, as well as creating opportunities and mentoring NCCU undergraduates and graduate students at UNC.

The NCCU-UNC partnership benefits from a number of factors that support synergy.  The institutions are separated by only 8 miles, allowing students, faculty, and staff to easily meet, work together, and exchange information.  NCCU serves primarily underrepresented minority (URM) undergraduate students, and faculty have significant teaching, but not research, expectations.  UNC-CH is a research-intensive institution ranked among the top NIH-funded universities, with outstanding resources as well as a long tradition of research excellence, including the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, an established endowed alcohol research center with a leading NIAAA Alcohol Research Center (ARC).  The UNC-ARC has many alcohol researchers actively educating health professionals, with active successful research programs involving graduate and post-graduate students, as well as strong research core and staff support. Collaborative partnerships provide an outstanding environment for NCCU faculty and students to experience alcohol research, and for UNC and NCCU faculty to exchange ideas, seminars, and lectures.  NCCU faculty are partnered with UNC-ARC faculty who have overlapping areas of interest through structured collaborations.  NCCU faculty and students will conduct experiments and attend BCAS seminars, interact with UNC students, and take part in laboratory meetings of UNC alcohol researchers.  PEAR-NC has 3 full and 1 small research projects across 6 NCCU laboratories.  All projects investigate cellular mechanisms of alcohol pathology: one on alcohol use disorder-induced neuropathology, one on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and a third on alcohol-induced breast cancers, as well as a developing virology small project.  Health disparities in African-Americans are commonly increased severity of alcohol-related pathologies, which are studied in these projects.  Further, this proposal addresses health disparities by improving the pipeline of underrepresented minority researchers in alcohol research, involving NCCU students in research that educates them about mechanisms of alcohol pathology and building the expertise of NCCU faculty to build productive, independent alcohol research laboratories, thus building a critical mass of alcohol research at NCCU. The partnership between the UNC-ARC and NCCU will continue to increase the involvement of NCCU faculty and students in alcohol research and the process of discovery.

The full potential of this collaborative partnership has two objectives:

1. To establish productive alcohol research laboratories at NCCU through successful collaborations that develop NCCU funding, sustaining and growing alcohol research.  Through mentoring, working together, sharing of resources and techniques, joint meetings on data organization and manuscript preparation, and structured review and expectations, faculty and students will develop skills and be productive.  This will create a critical mass of alcohol research at NCCU that provides experience and enhances productivity, leading to discoveries and diversity in biomedicine.

2. To provide research experiences and education on alcohol pathology. This proposal will educate and develop NCCU faculty, students, and staff.  NCCU undergraduate students will be recruited for summer UNC internships and year-round research opportunities. A newly developed NCCU alcohol curriculum will provide education regarding alcohol-related health disparities. Seminar programs, alcohol lectures, research techniques, laboratory meetings as well as training in data organization, manuscript preparation, and publication will improve scholarship and knowledge about alcohol pathologies and associated health disparities. These structured mentoring and laboratory experiences will create successful alcohol research programs, resulting in discoveries and the education of a large number of underrepresented minority students on alcohol research and health disparities associated with alcohol abuse.



National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

NCCU Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute