An important function of the Nebraska Center for the Molecular Biology of Neurosensory Systems (NCNS) is to build the research infrastructure in molecular biology in our three participating institutions. We have approached this by fostering research careers of eariy stage investigators and by building core facilities that supply advanced technologies. To assist junior faculty members in building independent and sustained laboratories, we have developed procedures for evaluation and funding of research projects designed to produce preliminary data for successful grant applications, and we provide individual and collective mentoring to guide them in research design, manuscript preparation and grant application. In Phases I and II of the NCNS program, we have provided funding for access to core facilities. In Phase III, we will continue to offer support for a variety of core services through a system of voucher applications to fund specific projects needed for preliminary data or to augment ongoing research by providing an additional perspective. By providing research support, mentoring, and a collaborative environment, we have fostered successful researchers. Nine out of 13 Phase I investigators obtained promotions and external funding, seven receiving NIH or DOD grants. In the first four years of Phase II, we have been supporting 13 investigators with pilot or full project awards;three researchers have already obtained NIH grants, four more have received foundation or regional grants, and one has been promoted with tenure. Five projects are still in progress. In Phase III, we will support four pilot projects per year with mentoring support from a strong group of experienced faculty members, and will make six to eight voucher awards. We have made a particular effort to add translational research in Phase II, and this will be expanded through our collaborations with clinical departments in Phase III.
Core F- Research into the causes of neurodeveiopmental disorders such as hearing loss, vision loss, and autism is necessary for the discovery of effective biomedical treatments. We have focused on building a strong group of collaborative researchers by providing research support and mentoring for the career development of eariy stage investigators who can lead sustained and productive research programs.