MOSCOW, Idaho — Aug. 13, 2020 — The University of Idaho has secured a grant of nearly $11 million from the National Institutes of Health to support continued modeling for biomedical research at U of I’s Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation (IMCI).

The funding comes as Phase 2 of a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant received by the U of I in 2015. COBRE grants support the establishment and development of biomedical research through awards granted in three sequential phases.

During Phase 1, grant funds of $10.6 million helped U of I students, staff and faculty researchers from nearly every college incorporate modeling in their projects. Funds financed projects such as studying disease severity and transmission rates in hosts infected with multiple pathogens at the same time and the role of social influence and human perceptions of infection risk when making vaccine choices. Phase 1 money also supported major equipment purchases that help facilitate the production of quantitative data, sponsored 11 postdoctoral fellowships and assisted faculty acquire nearly $20 million for additional research in the state of Idaho.

IMCI is supporting several research projects related to COVID-19.

“We are proud of our Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation researchers who make important contributions to the state of Idaho and our nation,” University of Idaho President Scott Green said. “This team was instrumental to guiding statewide decisions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This biomedical research grant that is focused on cancer and the human microbiome will enable this talented team to further advance those efforts, helping our leaders and medical community save lives and improve living conditions in our country.”

The Phase 2 COBRE funds will continue to bolster U of I interdisciplinary biomedical research with new research projects studying cancer genomics, cancer imaging and interpreting variation in the human microbiome. New projects will be added over the course of this five-year grant.

“This funding allows us to continue what we’ve started and is particularly important to the campus community as we elevate our research profile,” said Holly Wichman, distinguished professor, IMCI director and principal investigator on the grant. “IMCI is a team-based idea generator that encourages participation across disciplines and among people who might otherwise never connect. Such collaboration fosters big ideas, and big ideas solve big problems.”

Brainstorming is a focus of IMCI. The COBRE grant finances research projects for early career faculty and pilot grants to explore possible new research directions. Funding also supports IMCI’s Modeling Core, a unique service center of postdoctoral researchers that offers diverse skills in various modeling approaches to principal investigators and working groups. It also supports learning opportunities for the campus community through a seminar series, workshops and hands-on data management and analysis training.

“We think all researchers should use modeling,” Wichman said. “Modeling improves research at all stages – hypothesis formulation, experimental design, analysis and interpretation – and provides a unifying language by which exchange of ideas can highlight commonalities and uncover unforeseen connections between problems.”

Modeling is especially useful when it is not feasible to experimentally explore all solutions to a problem. IMCI modeling approaches include everything from using mathematical formulas to replicate and predict real-world behavior to simulating molecule interactions to building physical and computational models of 3D objects. This funding will allow IMCI to bring new modeling expertise to the U of I research community.

This project was funded to University of Idaho by National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences under award 2P20GM104420-06.The total project funding is $10,999,565.00 of which 100.00% is the federal share.