Cancer Can’t Keep Charlie Crowe from Enjoying Her Life

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In the world of biomedical research, donations made as initial seed investments can be harnessed to attract larger federal grants from prestigious funding organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For successful examples of how this works, look no farther than the UT Health Northeast Research Council. Since its inception in 1995, the group has generated $6.6 million in federal grants for projects that were originally funded with $313,000 in private donations.

The Research Council was created in large part by Allen Cohen, M.D., who wanted to involve members of the local community with UT Health Northeast’s ongoing research efforts. The mission was to educate the community about the institution’s research program and to raise funds to underwrite pilot research projects.

Initially, members were invited to periodic evening gatherings at the UT Health Northeast Biomedical Research Building, where they were provided with hors d’oeuvres prior to a lecture by a researcher. After the lecture, tours of the facility were provided.

Soon afterward, donations above and beyond the membership dues began to accumulate, and it became possible to institute an internal research grant program. Dr. Cohen used to like to quote James Bryant Conant, who served as President of Harvard University from 1933 to 1953: "There is only one proved method of assisting the advancement of pure science – that of picking men of genius, backing them heavily and leaving them to direct themselves."

Based on this premise, the first Research Council grants were small and designed to be leveraged to significant, high-impact projects that could attract funding from federal sources. Examples of the early successes include:

  • Dr. Vijay Rao, who received $6,000 in 1997 to study the initiation and regulation of blood coagulation. Dr. Rao has subsequently received numerous grants from National Institutes of Health and from the pharmaceutical company NovoNordisk, totaling over $3.7 million, to further this important work.
  • Dr. Buka Samten, who received $7,500 in 2003 to look at the role of interferon gamma production in response to tuberculosis infection. He was subsequently successful in obtaining over $377,000 from NIH to further these studies.
  • More recently, Dr. Dong-Ming Su, who was recruited from the University of Georgia in 2005. He was given a Research Council grant in 2006 to study how aging affects immunity. Based on the preliminary data he obtained with this small grant and his innovative research ideas, he has successfully garnered three current NIH grants and a number of supplements to these grants, totaling almost $2.5 million.

By being a member of the Research Council today, you can also make a lasting positive impact on tomorrow by providing this kind of vital financial support for seed grants that can be grown into exciting new projects and discoveries.

For more information about joining the UT Health Northeast Research Council, please contact Wendy Frizzell at or (903) 877-5805.

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