Autophagy is a fundamental homeostatic and metabolic intracellular process operational in all healthy human cells. Autophagy sustains cellular metabolic needs during starvation or growth factor withdrawal, cleanses the cell interior by removing damaged organelles and toxic protein aggregates, and rids cells of endogenous or exogenous promoters of inflammation. Increasingly studied, autophagy broadly affects human health and disease with disorders ranging from inflammatory, metabolic (diabetes, obesity), infection, autoimmune, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging. The proposed Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) for Autophagy, Inflammation, and Metabolism (AIM) in Disease will serve biomedical excellence for mentored research on autophagy and its interactions with inflammatory and metabolic processes. Both New Mexico and the nation lack a program to develop faculty and coherent research programs in this novel, evolving area with translational implications. With regional and national implications, AIM will close that gap. University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNM HSC) employs national and international leaders in autophagy plus junior investigators exploring the intersections of inflammation, metabolism, and other processes with autophagy. UNM HSC offers (i) institutional support, (ii) future faculty hires, (iii) translational resources (Clinical and Translational Science Center), (iv) faculty mentoring, and (v) effective infrastructure to secure AIM as a national center of excellence. In turn, AIM will provide state-of-the-art equipment, technical expertise, training, and mentoring to win R01 funding for multiple new projects.
AIM will build on the strength of the initial cohort of investigators and mentors, recruit new investigators, and develop a sustainable center to meet Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program goals.
Specific Aim 1. Establish a nationally recognized AIM CoBRE to pioneer the study of autophagy and its connections with inflammation and metabolism as a basis of disease.
Specific Aim 2. Develop a critical mass of investigators within AIM's research scope, establish mentoring infrastructure to enable junior faculty career development, and provide mentoring support for investigators to achieve independent NIH funding.
Specific Aim 3. Establish scientific cores to enable present and future cohorts of mentored PIs, as well as the scientific community at UNM HSC and New Mexico.
AIM will enable local growth in scientific resources, complement existing facilities without overlaps, develop a cadre of excellent faculty, and increase research funding institutionally and statewide.
AIM will interface with other New Mexico IDeA centers and synergize without duplicating existing cores, facilities, and shared resources at UNM HSC and the region.

Public Health Relevance

(AIM COBRE Overall) Autophagy is a novel, medically highly relevant process functioning in all healthy human cells. Because of its broad medical relevance in cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, aging, local and dangerous global emerging infections, autoimmune diseases, etc., the study of autophagy is necessary to advance our means of fighting disease. This relatively recent area of research is coming into its prime through the realization by investigators in many disciplines that understanding autophagy will inform them in a new way, along with development of new treatments, about many diseases where roadblocks to further progress using traditional approaches have been encountered. The Autophagy, Inflammation and Metabolism (AIM) in disease Center of Biomedical Research Excellence will achieve local impact by enhancing research base in New Mexico and will represent a nationally important center for advancement of research on autophagy in disease, presenting the state of New Mexico and the region with a cutting edge biomedical center of excellence while giving the nation a resource for development of new approaches in treating a wide spectrum of disease.

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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Caldwell, Sheila
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University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
Schools of Medicine
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