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RD Highlights – Barrerra Taps Actionable Intelligence

Research Development Insights Help Acquire Funding for Critical Research Tool

Research into targeted medical therapies is underway at the University of Tennessee to help fight pathological states like cancer, ischemia, and inflammation. One approach is based on the unique characteristics of diseased cells involving acidosis, or too much acid. In 2017, Fran Barrera, assistant professor of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore this condition.

With the assistance of UT’s Research Development staff, he recently received additional funding for a new piece of equipment that would increase productivity on his project and support research conducted by other NIH investigators at UT.

Kimberly Eck, assistant vice chancellor for research development, conducted a budget analysis for NIH and talked to UT’s existing NIH awardees. She realized that NIH would likely experience a budget windfall and make funds available via supplements to existing awards. Working with Jennifer Webster, research development manager, they shared this information with faculty supported by NIH and helped them prepare for the opportunity.

Webster was able to bring “actionable intelligence” to Barrera after attending an NIH Regional Seminar where she met face-to-face with the program officer, who offered many pointers that Barrera could address in his proposal. Such topics included institutional support, project productivity, sustainability, and relevance to the NIH portfolio.

“This conversation led to valuable information I could share,” Webster says. “I passed this on to Dr. Barrera, helped facilitate a strong cost share package, and reviewed the proposal to make sure it aligned with what we had learned.”

Barrera ultimately requested funding to acquire a $70,000 plate reader.

“I was nicely surprised when I received the notice of award for the equipment supplement,” he says.