Natural products play an essential role in both alternative and conventional western medicine. Over 30% of the US population reports using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities, which include botanical natural products. Furthermore, approximately 50% of all new small molecule drug approvals in the United States over the past decade were based on natural product compounds. Trained biomedical researchers are needed to evaluate the chemical composition, activity, and mechanism of action of natural products that are employed therapeutically. Such scientific investigations are critical for the development of safe and effective strategies to use natural products for the improvement of health, and to prevent their misuse. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM, recently renamed NCCIH) recognizes this need in their 2011-2015 Strategic Plan, which highlights the importance of training in key biomedical and behavioral research disciplines necessary for rigorous, state-of-the-art scientific investigation of CAM interventions, practices, and disciplines. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) is a unique and ideal location for such training to occur. Our PhD program in Medicinal Biochemistry emphasizes natural products and CAM research, and we have a strong collaborative network of faculty mentors with relevant, funded research programs. UNCG also boasts two established centers that support research related to CAM, the Center for Translational Biomedical Research and the Natural Products and Drug Discovery Center. To take advantage of the exceptional training environment at UNCG, we propose to establish a new T32 program that will support five predoctoral students who will conduct basic science research on natural products and CAM. Drawing upon a rich institutional culture of diversity at UNCG, this training program will emphasize the recruitment, retention, and success of students from diverse backgrounds. Training within our T32 program will be tailored to fit the needs of individual students, with different opportunities provided to those on academic and industrial career paths. A unique element of our program will be training in the application of cutting-edge technologies for the analysis of complex botanical mixtures. Trainees will receive hands-on instruction in this area, making use of our exceptional NMR and mass spectrometry facilities. Ultimately, our objective with the proposed T32 program is to produce scientists ready to transition into independent CAM- related careers in industry or academia. We will leverage our preexisting expertise in natural products research and our strong web of connections within the CAM community to develop a program that can efficiently achieve this outcome.
The program will train predoctoral students in basic science research related to dietary supplements (botanical natural products) and complementary and alternative medicine. Scientists with training in this area play a critical role in ensuring the saety and efficacy of dietary supplements that are widely used by the general public.
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