Marshall University, West Virginia’s oldest public institution, is a multi-campus, interactive, public university composed of eight colleges and schools, which offers 68 baccalaureate programs, 2 associate programs, 52 graduate programs, and maintains an enrollment of approximately 14,000. Currently, Marshall is experiencing a significant increase in research activity; since 1990, Marshall University’s total grant and contract funding has doubled every five years. This rate of growth reflects the growing university emphasis on research and the breadth of faculty expertise with research projects in every county in West Virginia. This partnership with UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) will offer the collaborations and infrastructure to assist Marshall in advancing more quickly to its goal of developing an evolving core in clinical and translational research.
Marshall faculty are now serving on the CCTS Leadership Committee, as co-directors of CCTS key functions/cores, and as Pilot Studies CATalysts to generate the synergy needed to advance the partnership. Marshall is a key partner in the Appalachian Translational Research Network, a regional platform to identify areas for potential collaboration and researchers interested in new collaborative endeavors.
Areas of integration with UK’s CCTS include:
Clinical Research: Target areas for investigator initiated trials are cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Marshall has substantial clinical expertise and/or basic science research strength in these areas, and welcomes the opportunity to participate in the CCS pilot funding program. In addition, CCTS expertise and organizational infrastructure to support regulatory compliance will serve as a model resource as Marshall expands its capacity in this arena.
Education/Career Development: Junior faculty in Marshall’s COBRE program in cancer and nutrition will benefit from joint training opportunities and peer interaction with UK faculty in its three COBREs, K12 BIRCWH, Physician Scientist, and CTS Scholars programs.
Cancer Genomics Network: Marshall’s NIH-funded Cancer Genomics Network offers unique access to a number of genomic analyses of patient tumors using next generation sequencing. The data is deposited in a common network data base with links to de-identified clinical data for the patient. The underlying hypothesis is that the stability of the Appalachian population will permit identification of genetic and epigenetic changes that influence development and progression of selected types of cancer.
Marshall Genomics Core Facility services are available to UK researchers and include: (1) microarray-based gene expression profiling, (2) automated DNA sequencing and genotyping and (3) access to real-time thermal cyclers for quantitative PCR.
Community Engagement: With a current focus on the health and educational needs of the community, Marshall’s Center for Rural Health will capitalize on opportunities in the partnership to expand participation in clinical trials and translational research. Given that the populations served by the Marshall Center for Rural Health and the UK Centers for Rural Health border each other geographically, collaboration between the Centers is a natural fit that will enhance research activities across Appalachia.
Novel Methodologies: Marshall brings to the partnership pioneering work on the development of gene editing, a technique in which short DNA oligonucleotides are used to direct the exchange of single bases in the coding region of a gene. This research is creating single base changes in mammalian cell lines that contain a novel SNP known to cause resistance to an anti-aging drug. The goal is to provide a system that can be used in collaboration with the UK Drug Development and Pharmaceutical Sciences Key Function and the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging to help in the identification of small molecules that affect neurodegeneration and aging. Working with the UK CCTS and the pharmacogenetics researchers of the UK College of Pharmacy, Marshall will further develop this technology.