CoBRE Funding

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $5.5 million research grant to the WVU Cancer Institute to support a Phase III Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE; NCRR: P30   RR032138/NIGMS: P30 GM103488) for Signal Transduction and Cancer, led by Laura F. Gibson, PhD, Deputy Director of the Cancer Center and the Alexander B. Osborn Distinguished Professor in Hematological Malignancies Research. Leaders of the shared resources supported by the Phase III CoBRE include Christopher Cuff, PhD, who oversee the Flow Cytometry Core; Karen Martin, PhD., leading the Microscope Imaging Facility and the Animal Models and Imaging Facility; Stephen Graber, PhD, in charge of the Protein Core; James Harner, PhD, heading up the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core; and William Petros, PharmD, who leads the Biospecimen Processing Core. These shared resources support   diverse elements of research within the Cancer Center and across the WVU Health Sciences Center including collection of patient samples for inclusion in projects, evaluation of pre-clinical animal models, advanced microscopy and support of evaluation of data that is required prior to publishing results.

In addition to investigations at the Health Sciences Center, the third phase of the CoBRE has allowed the Cancer Center to develop research collaborations with other scientists across the University and elsewhere. The Phase III support follows the WVU Cancer Institute's P20 grant (P20 RR16440). The goal of the Phase II CoBRE grant was, in part, to build our basic research base in the WVU Cancer Institute and to provide additional support for core facilities to serve both CoBRE investigators as well as others throughout the HSC and at other partner campuses. During the initial phase of the grant several junior faculty members were supported, while shared resources were initiated in Proteomics and Biostatistics, as well as ongoing support provided for the Flow Cytometry Core. This support was capitalized upon by senior investigators as well for new and renewal R01 projects.

Initial support provided by the Phase I CoBRE grant provided $1.5M dollars/year annual direct support. To garner CoBRE support junior faculty members wrote a 15-page grant in the style of an R01, which was reviewed internally and by our external advisors. Grants selected for funding were awarded to junior faculty at approximately $200,000/yr and they were given a 3-year commitment for funding, assuming that they made good progress towards extramural support (2 years if progress was poor;   and 4 years if they were getting close). Subsequently, the faculty   member wrote an R01 on their research project and if funded, they were graduated from the CoBRE grant and the CoBRE internal and external advisors would select a new proposal to support from the junior faculty applicant pool.

The WVU Cancer Institute initiated a well-developed junior faculty mentoring program concomitant with the CoBRE award which has remained central throughout the evolution of the grant into Phase III, with several junior faculty members securing subsequent new R01 grants; and several new and renewal R01 awards by senior WVU Cancer Institute faculty as well. In addition to R01 funding, CoBRE supported investigators have also secured peer-reviewed funding through the American Cancer Society (ACS), American Heart Association (AHA), and Department of Defense (DOD) demonstrating the broad impact of CoBRE support to the growth of our Cancer Center.

Administrative core

PI: Laura Gibson, PhD –Professor, Pediatrics and WVU cancer Institute Program Leader, Tumor Microenvironment

Mike Ruppert,   MD, PhD –Professor of Biochemistry, Jo and Ben Statler Chair for Breast Cancer Research, Co-Leader, Program in Breast Cancer Research

Michael Schaller, PhD – Professor, Chairperson for Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

CoBRE External Advisors

Jay Fox, PhD, Associate Dean of Research & Professor of Microbiology, at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Candace Johnson, Senior Vice President for Translational Research & Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, Buffalo, NY

Anton Wellstein, MD/PhD, Division Chief of Biochemistry and   Pharmacology, Professor, Department of Oncology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

CoBRE Participants

"Role of ankyrin complexes in anoikis" Steven Fricsh, PhD

"Sumoylation and epigenetics" Alexey Ivanov, PhD

"Hef-1/Ajuba regulates Aurora kinases" Elena Pugacheva, PhD

"Cortactin and Head & Neck cancer" Scott Weed, PhD

"Myosin II and cancer cell migration" Rob Wysolmerski, PhD

CoBRE Established Core Facilities

Flow Cytometry Chris Cuff, PhD

Microscope Imaging Facility Karen Martin, PhD

Animal Models and Imaging Karen Martin, PhD

Protein Purification Stephen Graber, PhD

Bioinformatics & Biostatistics Jim Harner, PhD

Biospecimen Processing William Petros, PharmD


Our long term goal is to establish an NCI designated cancer center for West Virginia (WV) and the surrounding Appalachian region. West Virginia University (WVU) is the flagship university and medical center in the state with no cancer centers in WV currently having NCI designation.  Our Phase I-II CoBREs for Signal Transduction and Cancer (P20) were designed to support basic research development as a critical component of successfully competing for a Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) and coincident NCI designation for the WVU Cancer Institute.  The specific aims of our Phase I and Phase II CoBREs evolved from an initial focus on junior investigators with a primary goal of nurturing career development and independent funding (Phase I) to a combination of continued support of junior investigators with establishment of a critical mass in targeted thematic areas during Phase II.  In addition, the establishment and strengthening of essential core facilities was supported during Phases I-II and the final stage of this critical core and infrastructure support defines the focus of our Phase III (P30) Transition Award. 

Established scientific thematic areas in the WVU Cancer Institute include programs focused on the Mechanisms of Metastasis and Therapeutic Response and Breast Cancer. Other programs include the Alexander B. Osborn Hematopoietic Malignancies and Transplantation Program, the Sara Crile Allen and James Frederick Allen Lung Cancer Program and Translational Tobacco Reduction Research.  These Programs provide a structured atmosphere for collaboration and mentoring for the WVU Cancer Institute members and the platform in which to shape multi-investigator and programmatic grant applications.  Relevant to this Transition Award application, projects throughout all of these Programs are supported by the Cores for which support is requested: Flow Cytometry, Microscope Imaging, Animal Models and Imaging, Protein, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, and Biospecimen Processing.  The specific aims of this Phase III Transition Award include (1) support of state-of-the-art technology and expertise in sustainable core facilities that emphasize accessibility and training in which we nurture career development of investigators undertaking cancer related research and (2) enhanced collaboration in the Cancer Institute, WVU and the state to maximize the impact of CoBRE investment to ensure maximum access to technology required for high quality, extramurally funded research.  Emphasis has been placed on strategies to support collaboration, sustainability, and an avoidance of redundant investment to yield the greatest impact of this award on continued growth of the WVU Cancer Institute, in part, through availability of outstanding core facility support.  Collectively, these efforts support our long-term goal of NCI designation.

We are organized to take maximum advantage of institutional capabilities in cancer research, to appropriately evaluate and plan center strategies and activities, and to promote joint initiatives, collaborations and interactions within and among our Programs, other institutional resources and our shared resources.
Integration chart for how the iLabs works.

Transfer of information between institutional financial systems (top row of blue-black boxes) with iLabs (bottom row of light blue boxes) that is established during ‘integration’. 

Gantt chart of transition from Cores to iLabs in Q3 2017.

Gantt chart for implementation and time line to completion (provided by Ms. Lauren Fry, Director of Business Development, North America, iLab Solutions).