SPOKANE, Wash. — Six Washington State University faculty will undertake health sciences research projects in genetics, cancer, nutrition, autism, and pediatric health, funded by a new seed grant system created by WSU Spokane.

The central purpose of the faculty seed grant program is to encourage faculty to develop research programs in Spokane that have the potential for extramural support, in particular from the National Institutes of Health. Their research will provide preliminary data to support applications for such funding.

Experienced researchers say that in order to be competitive for federal funding, this pilot data is critical. The seed grant fund will enable researchers to obtain initial data and then apply for funds to explore their research questions in larger populations.

“The NIH and other federal funding sources conduct highly competitive proposal processes,” said Dennis Dyck, associate dean for research at WSU Spokane and co-chair of the seed grant program. “We used the same scoring method, the same type of independent peer review, as the NIH, in reaching our decision. Even for those faculty who weren’t funded, this was a learning experience that will make them more competitive in the future.”

Factors assessed in the review of proposals included significance of the study, the approach the research undertakes, how innovative it is, the ability of the investigator to carry out the project, and the environment in which the research will take place, including such elements as availability of laboratory space and appropriate clinical populations.

“Critical to several of these proposals was the ability to partner with area physicians to recruit participants for the study,” Dyck said. “These projects reinforce the importance of translational and applied clinical research that takes advantage both of research university faculty expertise, and the significant health care system in Spokane.”

The seed grant was funded by WSU Spokane, with contributions from the WSU College of Nursing, WSU College of Pharmacy, and the Washington Institute for Mental Illness Research and Training housed at WSU Spokane. Funds awarded totaled $34,000. WSU Spokane hopes to continue the seed fund with assistance from private donors who support the growth of health sciences research that improves patient care.

For information about the funded projects, http://www.wsunews.wsu.edu/detail.asp?StoryID=3252.