Behrend wins $26 million medical research grant – Something good happened in Erie, 9/6/2019

Image via psi.behrend.psu.

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:

https://behrend.psu.edu/feature/behrend-lab-will-advance-26-million-magee-womens-research-institute-initiative-erie

This week’s good news highlight begins with Magee Women’s Research Institute (“MWRI”), which is apparently a separate but related entity from “Hamot,” reaching out for a research partner. Honestly, it would be good enough news just to realize that the UPMC Hamot affiliate is the “largest research institute in the United States devoted exclusively to the health of women and infants,” which it is.

This is a great story for two additional reasons, though. First, MWRI was searching for a partner in a $26 million project to bring clinical medical research trials to our area. That will undoubtedly benefit local women and kids.

Secondly, the research partner MWRI chose for this endeavor is also based right here in Erie! Penn State Behrend won the $26 million grant and will begin stationing faculty members and students at the MWRI downtown space. Behrend will have additional staff researching in a new “biomedical commercialization and translational research lab” in Knowledge Park.

According to the article on Penn State Behrend’s website, one major reason Erie was chosen as MWRI’s first expansion site was the large proportion of multigenerational families living in Erie. That is, folks that grow up here tend to stick around more so than natives of other locales, which allows researchers to more easily assess how genetics affect certain cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer.

The downside to this is that Erie County also has elevated cancer rates. The article does not state why that might be.

To pull this off, Behrend plans to build the aforementioned research and commercialization lab in Knowledge Park, as well as to offer biomedical engineering, biochemistry, and molecular biology programs.

This seems like the rare kind of story where everyone wins: UPMC Hamot is able to expand on the mission of the U.S.’s largest research institution focused on women and infant health; Penn State Behrend is able to add infrastructure and begin offering several additional degrees; and women and children in this area with cancer can receive the kind of top notch care and attention you might associate with much bigger cities.

Is this a good thing to happen in Erie? Don’t take my word for it. Here is Penn Stare Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford:

“This initiative has the potential to transform Erie, directly improving the health of generations of women who live here. It also will stimulate the region’s economy, creating a new hub for clinical and collaborative research, and for the start-up companies and products that build on the results of those medical successes.”

Let’s hope Chancellor Ford’s prediction becomes reality.

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