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NIH award to help build diversity among biomedical researchers

BUILD awards
October 27, 2014

Encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in bioscience research is the main driver of a multi-university project that was awarded funding this week from the National Institutes of Health.

Working as part of the team, Arizona State University aims to develop new approaches that engage researchers in biomedical sciences, particularly those from underrepresented minority groups.

The nearly $31 million award is part of a projected five-year plan to support more than 50 awardees and partnering institutions in establishing a national consortium to create, implement and evaluate approaches to recruit and retain individuals in biomedical research.

The number of successful underrepresented minority biomedical scientists is not reflective of the U.S. population, according to Lourdes Echegoyen, principal investigator for the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) project.

Echegoyen says that while 25 percent of the U.S. population is black, Hispanic or Native American, less than 13 percent of students representing these groups are enrolled in STEM graduate programs, and less than 10 percent are doctoral recipients.

While women account for 51 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only about 10 percent of all employed scientists and engineers.

The goal of the multi-university project is to collectively address these disparities in order to improve the quality of training environments, broaden research priorities and develop sufficient numbers of qualified scientists.

ASU is one of 11 partner universities for the BUILD project for the Southwest region. Further demonstrating their commitment to interprofessional education, the College of Health Solutions and College of Nursing & Health Innovation at ASU will be contributing the largest number of faculty to the BUILD project as they strive to prepare students within biomedicine and health.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this multi-university, interdisciplinary project that will address a real need in the bioscience and health industries,” said Alison C. Essary, project lead and director of student affairs for the College of Health Solutions. “We look forward to offering a progressively advanced set of programs to transform the biomedical research training of underserved populations in the Southwest with the ultimate goal of improving their competitiveness for future grant opportunities.”

“These awards represent a significant step toward ensuring that NIH’s future biomedical research workforce will reflect the unique perspectives found within the diverse composition of our society,” said Hannah Valantine, NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity.

Supported by the NIH Common Fund and all NIH 27 institutes and centers, 12 awards were issued as part of three initiatives of the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program.

Southwest region BUILD institutions include: Arizona State University, Baylor College of Medicine, Clemson University, Connecticut Institute of Clinical and Translational Science at UCONN, El Paso Community College, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, UT Southwestern Medical Center and William Marsh Rice University.

For information about the BUILD, NRMN and CEC awardees and partners, visit