NIEHS P30 Center

The University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES) will establish an Environmental Health Sciences Core Center to enhance research capacity focused on major environmental health impacts to air and water quality that have been implicated in environmentally induced disease. This Center will provide advanced infrastructure and leading expertise, dedicated career development and mentorship, and community-engaged interactions to facilitate innovative discovery and new understandings of environmental factors in disease initiation, progression, and outcomes and their community impacts.

The central hypothesis is that toxic environmental agents are contributors to the disproportionately high incidence of chronic diseases, e.g., cancers, cardiopulmonary disease, and metabolic disorders in Appalachian Kentucky and that the impacts of early exposure are especially harmful. UK-CARES draws on a strong and diverse base of environmental health science and community-engaged research to build environmental health research capacity to meet the needs of communities in three Area Development Districts in southeastern Kentucky: Big Sandy, Kentucky River, and Cumberland Valley. Center members bring notable strengths in environmental health across four Research Interest Groups: Cardiopulmonary Diseases, Metabolic Disorders, Cancer, and Child Health and Early Life Exposures.

To achieve the Center’s goal, UK-CARES will: 1) establish a rich research environment and a framework for transdisciplinary leadership and integrated infrastructure to facilitate collaboration and efficient use of resources for research expansion and development of new scientific directions; 2) build research capacity in environmental health sciences by providing an outstanding intellectual environment and advanced infrastructure to support innovation and community engagement; 3) recruit new talent and facilitate career development of investigators whose research addresses critical issues in environmentally induced disease through mentorship and structured career training activities; 4) develop multi-directional and mutually beneficial communications and interactions with community residents, policymakers, and public health/healthcare professionals to identify environmental concerns of target communities as a stimulus to new research; and 5) bridge the gap between discovery of novel research findings and population-level awareness and practice via community-focused science communication training. 

An Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core, Analytical Core, and Community Outreach and Engagement Core are integral to this effort and will catalyze multi-directional translation across the whole spectrum of research; provide advanced analytical support in metabolomics, computational biology, analytical chemistry, biospecimen management, and bioinformatics; and bridge Center and community priorities. Complementary activities in career development of scientists who are interested in tackling challenging environmental health questions and pilot project funding will support developing research and evolving scientific directions.

Name: Center for Environmental Health and Disease Prevention

Focus of the Center: Chronic diseases caused by environmental toxic exposure and prevention. For example, carcinogenesis induced by heavy metals, such arsenic, chromium, and nickel, and other environmental carcinogenic agents. The health concerns caused by these metals are serious public health world-wide, Appalachian Kentucky in particular. Another important area is prevention of environmental exposure-related chronic diseases.

Short term goals: Within next one or two years, two PPG related applications can be developed.  One is metal, oxidative stress, and lung cancer in Appalachian Kentucky.  I have been working this application for nearly two years. Another one is environmental cancer prevention using plant-derived compounds.  This grant will target to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).  This PPG program started in 2002 and ended in 2009.  During this period, the applications were reviewed once a year.  I was a member in all of these reviews.  The program will be restored in February 2013. I have been considering the development of this type of application since 2009. In February, 2012, I have submitted a consortium application with three PIs in three different institutions in response to NIH Competing Revision Awards for Creating Virtual Consortium for Translational/Transdisciplinary Environmental Research (ViCTER).  This grant, to be reviewed in June, 2012, is about protection of arsenic carcinogenesis by blackberry extract.  One aim of this application is human population-related study.  This cancer prevention PPG will be the expansion of this consortium application. The T32 type of training grant will be initiated within one year.

New faculty to be recruited in near term will target to these two PPGs.

Long-term goals: The Center endeavors to be well recognized internationally for research and education in environmental exposure-related diseases and prevention.

Number of faculty: 6-8 full time faculty

Method of recruitment: Initially, a few faculty may be able to be recruited within COM.  Additional two or three may be recruited outside UK. At this time, two candidates have been identified.  Their CVs are enclosed. The space and start packages will be discussed separately. 

Graduate education: The faculty will mentor graduate students via IBS and adjunct appointment with other academic units within UK. The issue of faculty classroom teaching can be discussed separately.

Administrative office: One administrator is required at this time.  Recruitment can be made within UK current office worker pool.

Operation:  The Center functions as an independent unit, similar to Spinal Code and Brain Injury Research Center.  The center director reports to the Dean of COM directly.  The center has its own budget, keeping its salary reimbursement and indirect cost dollars in the same way as other departments and centers within COM do.  The center director evaluates his or her faculty.  Overall, the Center will be operated in the same way as other departments and centers do.

Space: Appropriate office space is needed for administrative office and the labs. The space allocation should be under the general guideline of COM.