UAMS Awarded $10 Million Grant To Support Research by Young Basic Scientists

By Chadley Uekman

The funding establishes a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at the university and supports the work of four young investigators focused on studying how microbial pathogens interact with the human body to cause disease. The funding totaled more than $10.03 million and was awarded as a five-year grant from the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

“To apply for a COBRE, you must first develop a central theme and support structure that provides the foundation for junior investigators to develop independent research careers. You then build on that foundation to expand the research program around the central theme,” said Mark Smeltzer, Ph.D., COBRE program director and professor in the UAMS Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

UAMS’ COBRE will focus on understanding how different types of microbial pathogens — such as viruses, bacteria and parasites — illicit inflammatory responses in a common host, the human body.

“Infectious disease is the result of the interaction between the microbial pathogen and its host,” Smeltzer said. “Although the pathogens are very different, there are likely common elements since they cause disease in the same human host. Understanding those elements would be invaluable in developing new therapies and medications for many illnesses.”

To receive COBRE funding, the institution must demonstrate that it has senior investigators to support the success of the junior investigators as they develop into independent scientists. This structure at UAMS includes Smeltzer and Richard P. Morrison, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Junior investigators in the COBRE are assistant professors in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology Jason Stumhofer, Ph.D.; J. Craig Forrest, Ph.D.; and Karl Boehme, Ph.D.; and Amy Scurlock, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and a researcher at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute. 

Smeltzer also credited the UAMS Office of Grants and Scientific Publications, led by DeAnn Hubberd, for playing a key role in writing and securing the grant.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or