Grant Abstract: Predoctoral Training: Innovative Technologies for Natural Products and Integrative Medicine Research

Grant Number: 5T32AT008938-08
PI Name: Cech
Project Title: Predoctoral Training: Innovative Technologies for Natural Products and Integrative Medicine Research

Abstract: Natural products (particularly botanical dietary supplements) are a billion-dollar industry in the US and continue to serve as an important source for the development of new therapeutics. Trained biomedical researchers are needed to evaluate the chemical composition, activity, and mechanism of action of medicinally used natural products. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recognizes this need in their 2016 Strategic Plan, with the stated goal to “support research training and career development opportunities to increase the number and quality of scientists trained to conduct rigorous, cutting-edge research on complementary and integrative health practices.” The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) is a unique and ideal location for such training to occur. Our PhD program in Medicinal Biochemistry emphasizes natural products and integrative medicine research, and we have a strong collaborative network of faculty mentors with relevant research programs. UNCG participates in two major NCCIH funded centers that focus on rigorous scientific investigation of botanical natural products, the Center for High Throughput Functional Annotation of Natural Products and the Center of Excellence for Natural Product Drug Interaction Research. To leverage the exceptional training environment at UNCG, we propose to renew a productive T32 program that has just finished its first period of funding. Drawing on a rich institutional culture of diversity at UNCG, our T32 program provides training in the basic science of natural products and integrative medicine while emphasizing the recruitment, retention, and success of trainees from diverse backgrounds. The program is tailored to fit the needs of individual students, with different opportunities provided to those on academic and industrial career paths. A unique element of our program is training in the application of cutting-edge technologies for the analysis of complex botanical mixtures. Trainees receive hands-on instruction in this area, making use of our exceptional NMR and mass spectrometry facilities. Our objective is to prepare trainees to transition into independent, natural products related research careers. During its inaugural funding cycle, the program was highly successful towards this goal, with our three graduates securing research positions in the academic or private sector. Our trainees have also disseminated important research findings, with a total of 67 presentations at conferences and 23 publication coauthorships. With this renewal application, we build on these past successes and on our assessment outcomes to deliver a plan for student training that will ultimately advance research on the safe and effective use of natural products and integrative medicine. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The program will train predoctoral students in basic science research related to dietary supplements (botanical natural products) and complementary and integrative medicine. Scientists with training in this area play a critical role in ensuring the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements that are widely used by the general public.

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