The Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules (NPOD) supports research on the identification of biological signals that prevent, treat, and cure obesity and related diseases. The emphasis of NPOD is on food-borne signals. Led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in close collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), NPOD investigators have their tenure homes in 16 units crossing basic and clinical sciences, including nutrition, chemical engineering, biochemistry, gastroenterology, and public health, making NPOD a truly multidisciplinary endeavor. NPOD?s long-term goal is to enhance the biomedical research infrastructure in Nebraska while combating obesity, a major health problem impacting U.S. citizens. NPOD?s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Phase 1 successes include over $96M in external funding awards to support research and 375 scholarly publications on the center?s theme. Ten junior investigators have been mentored through two cohorts, with four of the five Cohort 1 project leaders graduating from NPOD support and establishing themselves as independent investigators within the center. The fifth project leader departed for a position in Europe prior to graduation. Cohort 2?s five project leaders are in the middle of their mentoring period. The hire of four new faculty during Phase 1 enabled the center to lay the groundwork to build a critical mass of researchers: NPOD?s membership has grown from 13 faculty at the center?s inception to its current count of 51 investigators. During Phase 1, NPOD renovated space and added equipment worth over $1M to create the Biomedical and Obesity Research Core comprised of an Obesity and Nutrition Laboratory (1,976 sq. ft.) and Animal Laboratory (606 sq. ft.). An Administrative Core provides oversight of program activities to ensure the center functions effectively. NPOD?s many successes in Phase 1 have positioned it to leverage Phase 2 COBRE funding and institutional commitments (e.g., five new hires, approximately $1.2M toward start-up packages, and over $1M in cash matches) via strategic activities designed to maximize center success. Specifically, during Phase 2 NPOD will 1) increase its critical mass of researchers with an additional five junior investigator hires at UNL and UNMC (and a nutrigenomics investigator hire through UNL?s Programs of Excellence), recruiting new junior and senior investigators to the center using pilot and seed grant funding, and continuing to develop strategic alliances with complementary programs in Nebraska; 2) acquire additional equipment for the Research Core and enhance rigor and reproducibility with statistics and bioinformatics consultations offered through the Administrative Core; 3) enhance the center?s mentoring structure and collaborative, multidisciplinary environment through the addition of external mentors and various center activities; and 4) expand integration of fundamental nutrition and obesity research with translational clinical and community-based research. By the completion of Phase 2, NPOD will be on-track for transitioning into COBRE Phase 3 and pursuit of NPOD?s vision to become an NIH-designated Nutrition and Obesity Research Center.

Public Health Relevance

More than 60 percent of Americans are obese or overweight and the medical care costs associated with their treatment are significant, totaling $147B to $210B per year. The Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules (NPOD) is playing a key role in helping to combat this epidemic by providing a multidisciplinary environment that enables researchers to identify the biological, and specifically food-borne, signals necessary to prevent, treat, and cure obesity and related diseases. Within the framework of obesity- related diseases, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which impacts 20% of U.S. adults and has lifetime treatment costs up to $36,000 per individual, has emerged as a particular area of strength in NPOD.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Exploratory Grants (P20)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1)
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Gao, Hongwei
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University of Nebraska Lincoln
Schools of Nutrition
United States
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