November 15, 2017

Health-Tech Corridor Talks to Anton Komar from CSU’s Center for Gene Regulation in Health & Disease

How did the Center for Gene Regulation get started?

The Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease was launched in October of 2008 with the idea to bring together researchers from different disciplines, who will work together on understanding complex molecular mechanisms involved in regulation of gene expression as well as understanding their relevance to the most devastating diseases, like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The Center was launched with a grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission’s Ohio Research Scholars Program. This program was designed to contribute to the growth of Ohio’s research enterprise and support the economic development priorities of the state.

GRHD was established in response to the Ohio Board of Regents (now the Ohio Department of Higher Education) mission differentiation plan that identified biomedical science as one of four CSU “signature programs”.

 

What is the focus of research at GRHD?

The Center focuses on research to improve understanding of biological processes and how malfunction of these processes results in various diseases. This research has significant potential to improve our understanding of the mechanisms and specific molecules that control reproductive health and those that control the aging process, as well as implications for the diagnosis and treatment of many of the most common diseases found around the world, including heart disease, neurological disease, infectious disease and cancer.

 

What is GRHD’s impact on Cleveland State?

GRHD was named Center of Researcher Excellence at CSU by the Ohio Department of Higher Education in 2010.
GRHD was Recognized by OhioHigherEd as the most established Center at CSU.

GRHD currently brings together 14 faculty from 3 departments: Biology, Chemistry and Physics and ~100 lab researchers (post-docs, technicians, graduate and undergraduate students, working in GRHD labs).

At present, GRHD is a home for > 50 PhD students pursuing their doctoral degrees in Regulatory Biology and/or Clinical-Bioanalytical Chemistry and more than two dozen undergraduate (including McNair scholars) students performing Honors and Scholars research projects in GRHD laboratories.

Many students trained by GRHD faculty have gone to pursue their graduate and/or post-doctoral studies at the top schools in the country and around the globe, including e.g. Harvard, Stanford, Columbia universities and NIH, just to name a few.

GRHD expose the community of students at CSU to high quality basic research. This opportunity is very well aligned with a central mission of the university, to train those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn how to think constructively, critically, and creatively, and thus how to succeed.

In the past 9 years, during a time of unprecedented decline in available external funding, GRHD members have been awarded more than $26 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the International Human Frontiers Science Program Organization, the American Heart Association, the Department of Defense and the March of Dimes. GRHD stably generates ~30% of all indirect costs recouped by CSU in total.

As such, GRHD helps to promote Cleveland State University’s reputation as a local, national and international leader in Gene Regulation in Health and Disease.

 

GRHD has assembled an impressive faculty, how important is this team to the Center’s success?

The research in the Center capitalizes on its interdisciplinary nature. GRHD faculty were trained at the top universities in the nation including e.g. Harvard, Rockefeller, UC Berkeley; Five faculty were trained at the Lerner Research Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. GRHD researchers are studying almost all aspects of the flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein and the relationship between the genotype and phenotype using modern genetic, biochemical, chemical and biophysical approaches. While GRHD faculty are doing diverse things, their research is highly complementary to one another and the success of the Center is built on extensive collaborative interactions among the GRHD faculty and between the GRHD faculty and scientists elsewhere in Cleveland, in the nation, and world-wide.

 

Due to its growth over the past decade, GRHD is running out of room at its current facility.  How is the university working to solve this issue?

The space issue us one of the most pressing GRHD needs. In addition, sustained growth and the development of the Center will not be possible without hiring new dynamic, research active faculty. During the past year, the Office of the University Architect in cooperation with Eberhard Architects, LLC have developed the conceptual design of a new biomedical research annex on campus, which we hope will become a new home for GRHD and other research active biomedical scientists at CSU. We envision that this new biomedical research annex may also offer incubator space for start-up biotech companies housed by Cleveland HTC.

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