Texas Southern University (TSU), one of the nation’s largest HBCUs, is on a mission to address racial health inequities and recently received a 5-year, $8.63 million grant to establish the Center for Biomedical and Minority Health Research (CBMHR). This novel initiative will be a first-of-its-kind resource for the university and the Texas Medical Center by supporting basic biomedical research for diseases, such as cancer and infectious diseases, that disproportionately impact underrepresented minority groups.
Two of the focus areas of the research center are cancer and infectious diseases, which disproportionately impact people of color and are leading causes of death in Houston, the state of Texas and the nation. Additionally, the CBMHR comes on the heels of a pivotal and historic pandemic that’s demonstrated the drastic health disparities in the U.S. Black, Indigenous and Latino populations are more likely than white Americans to contract and die of COVID-19 at alarming rates, according to the CDC.
“This novel coronavirus has amplified existing health inequities in our city and country, but these disparities have long been plaguing minority and vulnerable populations in our communities,” Omonike Olaleye, Ph.D., MPH. Interim Associate Provost / Associate Vice President for Research & Professor of Pharmacology said.
“TSU stands proud to be an academic leader and change agent to foster a more equitable and healthy future for those who need it most,” Provost Kendall Harris said. “Moreover, the CBMHR builds on the university’s commitment to health equity and we are honored to partner with the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities,” President Ken Huewitt said.
Through this award, TSU will continue to play a key role in using a multi-prong approach in addressing diseases that disproportionately impact racial/ethnic minorities and other health disparity populations. One of TSU’s long-term goals is to become a leader in academic preclinical drug development in the TMC, developing new interventions that protect the status of the vulnerable population it serves, and to subsequently serve as a point of access for healthcare education and communication of healthcare advances for the URM populations.
The new CBMHR is led by Omonike Olaleye, Ph.D., MPH., Interim Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Research (contact Principal Investigator), Huan Xie, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator), and Dong Liang, Ph.D., Interim Associate Dean of research (Program Director) from COPHS.
The CBMHR consists of five major components involving multi-disciplinary TSU faculty: Research Infrastructure Core (led by Song Gao, Ph.D.); Community Engagement Core (led by Veronica Ajewole, Pharm.D., BCOP, and assisted by Associate Directors Uche Anadu Ndefo, Pharm.D., BCPS., and Grace Loudd, Ph.D. (from COLABS), with Outreach Coordinator, Ms. Lena Bean) and Comunications Team (Dr. Toniesha Taylor and Dr. Morgan Kirby from SOC); and Investigator Development Core (led by Ivy Poon, Pharm.D., with Mario Hollomon, Ph.D. (from COSET); and a R01 equivalent Research Project on prostate cancer (led by Huan Xie, Ph.D.). Dr. China Jenkins, Ph.D. APTD, CFD, Executive Director of COPHS Team Center will work with the CBMHR IDC to coordinate the faculty-mentoring project. Additional Faculty Experts for the CBMHR include: Drs. Yun Zhang and Rodney Hunter (COPHS); Drs. Alamelu Sundaresan, Professor of Biology; and Daniel Vrinceanu, Professor of Physics (COSET).