Department News

UVM Hosts NIH NERIC Conference & Leahy Visit

August 14, 2017 by Jennifer Nachbur

The Vermont Genetics Network (VGN) and Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases (VCIID) at the University of Vermont hosted more than 300 National Institutes of Health-funded biomedical researchers from across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Delaware for the North East Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) August 16 to 18, 2017 at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy delivered remarks at the conference on August 17.
The Vermont Genetics Network (VGN) and Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases (VCIID) at the University of Vermont hosted more than 300 National Institutes of Health-funded biomedical researchers from across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Delaware for the North East Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) August 16 to 18, 2017 at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy delivered remarks at the conference on August 17.

Vermont is one of 24 states in the country designated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as eligible for Institutional Development Awards (IDeA. The IDeA program, which is based in the Research Capacity Building section of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, provides funding designed to build the infrastructure for biomedical research in smaller states like Vermont, in order to boost the careers of biomedical researchers, and grow and diversify the biomedical workforce in the state. In general, IDeA awards help develop research programs at both university and baccalaureate institutions and ensure faculty can be competitive for NIH funding.  

Once a decade, the North East Regional IDeA Conference (NERIC) is held in Vermont. The 2017 meeting was led by UVM faculty members and IDeA Award Principle Investigators Judith Van Houten, Ph.D., and Ralph Budd, M.D. Van Houten leads the VGN, which is funded through an INBRE – IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence – award. UVM also has two COBRE – Center of Biomedical Research Excellence – awards, which support the VCIID, which is led by Budd, and the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health at UVM. The VGN is in its third five-year phase and has been supported by $56 million in IDeA grants. The VCIID has been supported in its three phases by $27 million from IDeA. The newest Center on Behavior and Health is currently supported by an $11.5-million-dollar IDeA grant.  

The goal of the NERIC conference is to provide a platform for biomedical scientists to learn from colleagues about the latest research in the region in the areas of infectious diseases and immunology, neuroscience, bioinformatics, development and genetics, and cancer. A special session on entrepreneurship will feature experts from the NIH, U.S. Patent Office, and business and venture capital fields. In addition, there will be career development sessions for undergraduate and graduate students, who will also have an opportunity to present their research via posters, which allows them to share complex ideas in short, “elevator pitch” style settings. UVM core facilities, which feature the latest cutting-edge technologies and encourage sharing of research resources to stretch tax payers’ dollars, will also be highlighted at the conference.    

Senator Leahy addressed conference attendees about the importance of sustaining funding for agencies such as the NIH, and the Research Capacity Building programs that fund IDeA.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy has championed funding for such science agencies as the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency.

UVM President Tom Sullivan and Provost David Rosowsky joined Budd and Van Houten in welcoming attendees at the conference’s opening on August 16. 

Among the UVM and VGN faculty members who presented at the NERIC meeting are: Jason Botten, Ph.D., UVM assistant professor of medicine, who recently received a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to produce human neutralizing antibodies to hantavirus by cloning the immunoglobulin genes from B cells of patients who have survived hantavirus infection; Iwona Buskiewicz, Ph.D., UVM assistant professor of pathology, a recent R21 grant recipient, who just published an important study in Science Signaling showing that the type I Interferon signature in blood lymphocytes of lupus patients is driven in part by oxidative stress-induced aggregation of a protein known as mitochondrial anti-viral signaling protein (MAVS); Keith Mintz, Ph.D., UVM associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, whose work with the VGN Proteomics Core focuses on the identification of proteins needed for fimbrae secretion and biofilm development in the oral pathogen Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; Bill Landesman, Ph.D., a professor of biology at Green Mountain College, who is conducting a  tick research project with support from a $75,000 grant from VGN; Clarissa Parker, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Middlebury College, whose research on mapping genes in mice associated with the behavioral and physiological traits that characterize drug withdrawal is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse through NIH’s R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program; Gina Mireault, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral sciences at Johnson State College, whose research project, which involves undergraduate research assistants, is examining how infants discover humor and amusement and how that relates to bonding, attachment and development.

Learn more about the NERIC conference.