Grant links biotechnology efforts with Brazil

The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) in the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $210,000 grant to Wright State University and the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to develop a biotechnology training and research exchange program.

The program, U.S.-Brazil Bio Tech Training Consortium (USABRIO), was selected out of a competitive field of 57. The exchange program is one of ten programs nationally and the only one in Ohio to receive funding from FIPSE for collaborative U.S. and Brazil efforts. It is also the only funded program that focuses on biotechnology.

Two key individuals at Wright State will lead the U.S. effort. Mariana Morris, Ph.D., professor and chair of pharmacology and toxicology in the School of Medicine will serve as director, with co-director Michele Wheatly, Ph.D., professor and chair of biological sciences. The lead researcher in Brazil is Lisete Michelini, Ph.D., professor of physiology, University of Sao Paulo Faculty of Medicine.

Included in the grant are academic partners, the University of Iowa and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Procter & Gamble, Inc., in the U.S. and the InCor Heart Institute in Brazil are associate partners, who will provide additional training sites for students.

The program includes biotechnology training, scientific literacy, and cultural and language seminars. Wright State's Center for International Education and the English as a Second Language Program will facilitate the cultural and language segments of the program. In addition to course work, students will complete a laboratory-based research apprenticeship with a scientist. The 20-week program is geared toward undergraduate and graduate college students. The majority of the grant will be used to pay for course preparation, travel, and living expenses for the students.

"This experience," says Morris, "will expand the perspective of both faculty and students. There are serious environmental and health problems facing the Americas. We are preparing tomorrow's scientists to deal with global issues and to tap into global resources. The strength of the grant is the established connection with scientists in Brazil. We have been able to demonstrate the value of international collaboration."

Interconnectivity has changed the nature of the scientific enterprise. A decade ago researchers toiled on a specific problem in their independent laboratories, meeting occasionally at professional meetings to exchange information and ideas. Today, the scientific community is globally linked through computers, database repositories, and international travel. Earlier this year, Wright State University School of Medicine and the University of Sao Paulo signed a formal agreement of association.
Michelini and Morris met at an international symposium in 1996. Since then, the two have collaborated on research projects and co-authored scientific articles. Last year, Michelini spent several months in Morris's laboratory during a research sabbatical. Michelini works in the area of central control of the circulation and exercise physiology. Morris studies hypertension, particularly the role of salt in the disease referred to as "the silent killer."

In October, the program directors of the 10 funded programs will meet with U.S. State Department embassy officials and top-ranking Brazilian scientists and governmental officials.

Last edited on 04/22/2015.