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Release: Immediate

UI researchers receive $8 million five-year grant to study gene therapy

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa is one of two institutions nationwide this fiscal year to receive an $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to develop a Gene Therapy Core Center.

The center is intended to facilitate advances in gene therapy research, said John Engelhardt, Ph.D., UI associate professor of anatomy and cell biology and director of the center.

Beverly Davidson, Ph.D., associate professor in internal medicine is associate director of the center.

"A major focus is on cystic fibrosis, but there is also interest in the development of gene therapy for other genetic disorders," Engelhardt said. "The goal of this center is to expand the research base in gene therapy at UI and help new investigators enter the field of gene therapy."

The center will contain four supporting core laboratories essential for the development of gene therapy: the vector core, morphology core, animal models core, and the cell and tissue core. UI researchers studying gene therapy for inherited genetic diseases and outside investigators affiliated with the center will use the cores to help facilitate their research.

The grant will also support more than 26 two-year pilot studies over the five-year period. The studies will include projects proposed by investigators established in the field of gene therapy research, but who have cutting edge, high risk ideas that are not mature enough for funding elsewhere, as well as junior and established investigators in other fields who want to apply their expertise to a specific problem in gene therapy research.

The center is expected to be operational by November. After the five-year funding is up, the center will be eligible for competitive renewal.