N.C. A&T Awarded $5.1M NIH Grant to Upgrade Biomedical Research Facility

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Dec. 1, 2021) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) a significant federal grant to make major improvements to one of its core research facilities.

The college will use the grant from NIH to renovate and modernize the vivarium, the university’s biomedical research facility. The federal grant of $5,130,692 will be paid over three years.

“This award is very timely given the sustained enrollment in our animal science program, the research needs of our new Ph.D. program in agriculture and environmental sciences and the overall need for an updated core facility to support biomedical research across our campus,” said Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D., CAES dean. “This is a major development for the college and biomedical research on our campus because the updated vivarium will serve researchers from across the university.”

The facility will undergo a complete redesign to make better use of its 13,000 square feet. The project also includes upgrades to the latest equipment and control systems to better serve the needs of A&T’s biomedical researchers, said Andrea Gentry-Apple, DVM, the university’s coordinator of veterinary education and clinical associate veterinarian.

“It just needs a good facelift,” Gentry-Apple said. “Being able to provide students and researchers with a state-of-the-art facility for their biomedical research and training is our goal.”

After a year-long design process, renovation is expected to start in mid-2023. The project is scheduled to be completed in mid-to late 2024.

“I’m outrageously excited and kind of through the moon” about this project, Gentry-Apple said. “This award will provide what the university needs as well as a facility we can grow into as we advance toward increasing our research on campus.”

A modernized vivarium will bring a number of benefits to A&T. Among them: It will increase research productivity in biomedical fields and further expand the university’s research portfolio.

“It will create opportunities for greater collaboration across the colleges at A&T and with external partners,” said Tonya R. Hargett, Ph.D., director of research compliance and ethics in the university’s Division of Research and Economic Development. “It will also allow for the recruitment of top-notch innovators and researchers to the university, and it will allow faculty to apply for more NIH grants.”

The improved vivarium will better serve the Department of Animal Sciences, the largest academic unit in CAES. The college is the largest agriculture college among 1890s land-grant universities.

As of this fall, the department has 412 undergraduates — an increase of 82% over the past eight years. Not only is the department the only standalone animal sciences program among the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, it’s also home to North Carolina’s only undergraduate laboratory animal science degree program.

The animal sciences department has another 12 graduate students enrolled in its master’s program in agricultural and environmental systems with a concentration in integrated animal health systems.

A modern facility with cutting-edge equipment that can instruct students in the latest knowledge and techniques will improve the career prospects of A&T graduates with animal sciences degrees, said Derek Norford, Ph.D., the university’s attending veterinarian.

“A&T is striving for excellence,” Norford added. “With these improvements, students will get more excellent training before they graduate.”

The renovated vivarium also should help A&T play a larger role in North Carolina’s fast-growing pharmaceutical, industrial bioscience, and medical, research and testing laboratory industries. North Carolina ranks among the nation’s leaders in both large and specialized employment in the pharmaceutical and laboratory sectors, according to a recent national report.

Ahmedna is the lead principal investigator on the NIH grant. Gentry-Apple leads the project team, which is comprised of Hargett; Norford; Kofi Yiadom, facilities engineer with CAES; Andre Bryant, research operations manager with the animal sciences department; William Barlow, A&T’s director of design and construction; and project manager Charles Dixon with the university’s Office of Facilities.

About North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is the nation’s largest historically Black university, as well as its top ranked (Money magazine, Best Colleges; Washington Monthly College Guide and Rankings). It is a land-grant, doctoral university, classified as “high research” by the Carnegie Foundation and a constituent member of the University of North Carolina System. A&T is known for its leadership in producing graduates in engineering, agriculture and other STEM fields. The university was founded in 1891 and is located in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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