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The University of Nebraska will take part in a four-state initiative to help early career scientists find the resources they need to expand research in the region.

On Monday, the University of Nebraska Medical Center announced a record-breaking $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Great Plains Institutional Development Award-Clinical/Translational Research Network.

UNMC will work with the three other NU campuses as well as five other schools in four states to expand medical professionals' knowledge in approaching a wide range of diseases.

“It’s never easy to compete for a research grant of this magnitude,” UNMC Chancellor Jeff Gold said. “It represents years of hard work by lots of dedicated individuals. We couldn’t be more proud.”

Dr. Matthew Rizzo, a professor and chairman of UNMC’s Department of Neurological Sciences, will lead the five-year project that already has engaged researchers from various departments to study how research can benefit the community.

“The goal of this grant is to help early career scientists to become independent and launch their own research programs,” Rizzo said in a statement. “We want to fill in the health gaps in the Great Plains area. We have unique needs. We have areas with relatively few people in big spaces, as well as medically underserved populations in urban areas."

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At UNL, Melanie Simpson, a professor of biochemistry and the associate director of the Center for Biotechnology, will serve as the project coordinator for Nebraska, while other participants in the network include North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas.

Simpson said the grant should lead to more research at UNL that helps solve real-world problems like the effectiveness of drugs or medical devices, while also building the university’s research portfolio.

“My hope for this project is that we, at least in the biomedical areas, significantly increase the campus interface between UNL and other universities in the University of Nebraska system,” she said. “This program will be beneficial in helping researchers realize the strategic importance of shared grants, shared programs and shared students."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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