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Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)

Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) support thematic, multidisciplinary centers that augment and strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity. This is accomplished by expanding and developing biomedical faculty research capability and enhancing research infrastructure, including the establishment of core facilities needed to carry out the objectives of a multidisciplinary, collaborative program. The centers promote collaborative, interactive efforts among researchers with complementary backgrounds, skills and expertise. Researchers supported through COBRE are expected to compete independently for external peer-reviewed grant support.


Each COBRE includes:
  • A principal investigator who is an established biomedical research scientist with expertise central to the research theme of the center, has an active research laboratory, has relevant peer-reviewed funding and has demonstrated administrative leadership and mentoring experience.
  • Three to five individual research projects—each supervised by a single junior investigator—that stand alone but share a common thematic scientific focus.
  • At least one mentor for each junior investigator, and a development and mentoring plan addressing how the junior investigators will transition to competitive grant support from NIH institutes and centers or other Federal or non-Federal agencies or organizations.
COBRE support comes in three sequential 5-year phases:
  • Phase I focuses on developing research infrastructure and providing junior investigators with formal mentoring and research project funding to help them acquire preliminary data and successfully compete for independent research grant support.
  • Phase II seeks to strengthen each center through further improvements in research infrastructure and continuing development and support of a critical mass of investigators with shared scientific interests. After 10 years of COBRE support, centers are expected to be able to compete successfully for other sources of research funding, such as program project or center grants from other NIH institutes and centers or other funding sources.
  • Phase III transitional centers provide support for maintaining COBRE research cores developed during Phases I and II, and sustain a collaborative, multidisciplinary research environment with pilot project programs and mentoring and training components.
The COBRE-Diabetes grant is in Phase I, focusing on developing research infrastructure and providing junior investigators with mentoring and funding.


Executive Team
The Lead Principal Investigator and Director for the COBRE is Mariana Gerschenson, Ph.D., a Hispanic, translational researcher, and the Deputy Director is Marjorie Mau, MD, MS, a Native Hawaiian, physician-scientist. Combined, both Directors have decades of administrative experience, mentoring expertise, and current and continuous NIH funding. Dr. Gerschenson’s expertise lies in pediatric IR, and pediatric and adult metabolic disease. Dr. Mau is a board-certified endocrinologist with more than two decades of clinical epidemiology, health disparities, and clinical intervention research at UH. Dr. Le Saux is the Director of the Resource Core, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. He studies cardiovascular calcification in animal models and patients, which is a complication of diabetes. Together, Drs. Gerschenson, Mau, and Le Saux form an Executive Committee which convenes monthly to determine appropriate allocation of COBRE resources and infrastructure support for scientific projects, mentoring, and developmental activities.


Mentoring Teams
We provide a detailed formal mentoring plan for each of our Early Career Investigators that addresses the challenge of mentoring early career faculty in our remote location. The cornerstone of the mentoring plan is the Mentoring Team for each Junior Investigator. This includes a local primary mentor who is knowledgeable in the area of the project, and another external mentor or collaborator with substantial complementary expertise, and the COBRE Executive Team.


Internal Advisory Committee
Dr. Gerschenson is advised by three current COBRE Principal Investigators in Hawaii – Dr. Ralph Shohet, Dr. W. Steven Ward, and Dr. Ric Yanagihara – all of whom have substantial experience in COBRE administration and comprise the Internal Advisory Committee.


External Advisory Committee (EAC)
The EAC is an independent assessment committee and advisory to the COBRE-Diabetes. The EAC is composed of three recognized scientists with administrative experience, leaders in the field of diabetes and/or with expertise directly relevant to the research plans of the junior investigators. The EAC is composed of:


Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., A. Conger Goodyear Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, University of Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He is a pediatric cardiologist who has been an Associate Dean and Department Chair. He studies IR/diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in children. Dr. Lipshultz is principal investigator of a study using comparative genomics and proteomics to study the development of pediatric cardiomyopathy. His team is conducting an NHLBI-funded multi-center international study of whole-exome sequencing in children with cardiomyopathy to determine the influence of genomic variation, genotype-phenotype correlations, modifier genes and gene-environment interactions on the development and progression of pediatric cardiomyopathy and on therapeutic successes, and the incidence of adverse clinical events.

Steven E. Kahn, M.B., Ch.B., Leonard L. Wright and Marjorie C. Wright Chair; Professor, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition; Director, Diabetes Research Center, University of Washington. He is an endocrinologist whose research focuses on the mechanisms responsible for the critical impairments in insulin secretion that result in the development of diabetes. With his colleagues, Dr. Kahn is also examining novel approaches to preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.

Joshua Lipschutz, M.D., Renal Division Director, Professor of Medicine and Arthur V. Williams Chair, Medical University of South Carolina. He is a research nephrologist who studies ciliogenesis/Polycystic kidney disease work with the generation and characterization of an Exoc5 fl/fl mouse that allowed for kidney-specific knockout of Exoc5 (Fogelgren et al, 2015, PLoS One), the demonstration that the exocyst critically interacts with Arl13b during ciliogenesis (Seixas et al, 2016, Molecular Biology of the Cell), and the discovery that Tuba regulates Cdc42, which, in turn, regulates the exocyst (Baek, et al, 2016, Journal of Biological Chemistry).


Lori Sussel, Ph.D., Sissel and Findlow Family Chair, Professor of Pediatrics and Cell and Developmental Biology, Director of Basic and Translational Research, Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes. Her research focuses on the complex transcriptional networks that regulate development, differentiation and function of the pancreas. Recent investigations are focused on issues relating to the regulation of alpha and beta cell identity and function with a specific focus on transcription factors and long non-coding RNAs. She leads an outstanding team of scientists and clinicians at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes dedicated to finding treatments and cures for Type 1 diabetes.


The EAC provides programmatic oversight and mentoring guidance. The EAC meets twice a year; we are grateful for their guidance and commitment to our Center’s success. The responsibilities of the EAC include providing general oversight, suggestions for mentoring, consideration of provided evaluation metrics, and scientific advice for the COBRE-Diabetes as well as for individual projects.
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