ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WIN: LSU Garners $11.5M Grant from NIH to Establish Louisiana Pulmonary Research Center

Dr. Jeyaseelan and LSU administrators

LSU School of Veterinary Medicine researchers bring in $11.5 million of federal funding from the National Institutes of Health to Louisiana to advance pulmonary research. From left to right: LSU Provost Stacia Haynie, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Dean Joel Baines, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Studies and co-investigator Rhonda Cardin, LSU Professor and principal investigator Samithamby Jeyaseelan, LSU President F. King Alexander and LSU Associate Vice President of Research & Economic Development Gus Kousoulas.

Photo Credit: Thomas Rooney, LSU.

BATON ROUGE – The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, or LSU SVM, has been awarded more than $11.5 million in funding over five years from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to launch the Center for Lung Biology and Disease, or CLBD. Samithamby Jeyaseelan, the William L. Jenkins Professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, will serve as principal investigator, and Rhonda Cardin, associate dean for research and advanced studies, will serve as co-investigator.

The CLBD will augment research on campus in the molecular and cellular immunological mechanisms of pulmonary diseases. Lung diseases are an increasing problem, especially in babies, the immunocompromised and the elderly, and Louisiana is in the top five states most affected by pulmonary diseases. The over-arching goal of the CLBD is to gain new insights into the pathogenesis of devastating lung diseases that will guide improved strategies to treat and prevent lung diseases in human populations.

The funding comes from the NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE program, which seeks to promote the initiation and development or expansion of unique, innovative, state-of-the-art biomedical and behavioral research centers at institutions in states that historically have received low levels of support from NIH, including Louisiana.

“This multimillion dollar federal grant is a major economic development win for Louisiana. It supports our on-going research in a critical health field and helps Louisiana continue to stand out as a leader in research,” said Gus Kousoulas, LSU associate vice president for research & economic development.

Research supported by this program spans the full spectrum of basic and clinical sciences and encompasses all areas of health-related investigation. In addition, COBRE projects augment the ability of investigators to compete for investigator-initiated NIH research grants or other external nationally peer-reviewed funding.

"COBRE brings national recognition to the LSU SVM and will serve as a powerful engine to expand our research portfolio in pulmonary disease as it relates to human health and comparative medicine," said Joel Baines, LSU SVM dean. “We are proud of all of our faculty associated with this prestigious grant. This award mechanism will also provide exceptional research and funding opportunities to veterinarian-scientists to do high-caliber research using COBRE resources.”

According to the NIH, 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. Although this new grant garners more than $11.5 million in total costs for its initial five years, the grant is renewable for two additional five-year terms for a total of more than $32 million.

“This grant focuses on lung disease, which is an ongoing area of cutting-edge research done by the investigators at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine,” Jeyaseelan said. “This is an outstanding opportunity for a group of new and early-stage investigators to get their research programs off the ground and to flourish. It sets essential milestones in research that they have to fulfill and includes the remarkable value of personalized mentoring. It is indeed an awesome program.”

As principal investigator, Jeyaseelan has assembled a team of outstanding investigators with advanced knowledge and research expertise across basic science departments in the LSU SVM Departments of Pathobiological Sciences and Comparative Biomedical Sciences to address immunological mechanisms contributing to numerous infectious and non-infectious pulmonary diseases. In addition to Cardin as co-investigator, key research personnel include Smriti Mehra, associate professor, Division of Microbiology at the Tulane National Primate Research Center, or TNPRC; Weishan Huang, assistant professor in the LSU Department of Pathobiological Sciences; and Yogesh Saini and Sonika Patial, who are both assistant professors in the LSU Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, or CBS. Moreover, key scientific core personnel include Tammy Dugas, professor in CBS and project lead for the Pulmonary Immunopathology Core, and Kousoulas, who is a professor in PBS, associate vice president for LSU Office of Research & Economic Development and project lead for the Molecular Biology Core.

The specific objectives of this COBRE CLBD program are as follows: 1) Promote the establishment of a nationally recognized Center of Excellence, or COE, in Pulmonary Diseases; 2) Facilitate the improvement in research infrastructure for enhancing competitiveness for extramural grants; and 3) Develop an administrative infrastructure to promote the independent career of junior investigators.

There are four essential components of the COBRE: 1) An Administrative Core will provide administrative support, organization, coordination and efficient management necessary to ensure the success of the COBRE and junior investigators. This core will also provide accounting support to ensure appropriate fiscal and scientific oversight, monitoring and compliance with federal and institutional grant management regulations. 2) A Pulmonary Immunopathology Core will provide animal and equipment facilities and specialized training for COBRE junior investigators in pulmonary immunopathological techniques and to develop new experimental approaches that will assist junior investigators and other NIH-funded investigators in successfully pursuing their research objectives. 3) A Molecular Biology Core will provide access to and experience in utilizing advanced molecular biology, which is limited for most junior investigators and established NIH-funded investigators. 4) Individual Projects will include Mehra’s Indoleamine dioxygenase suppresses pulmonary T-cell immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Huang’s TCR signaling in IL-10 production by CD8+ T cells during influenza-induced lung immunopathology; Saini’s Myeloid Cell Signaling in Allergic Asthma; and Patial’s Modulation of acute lung injury by tristetraprolin.

“This new center award is the second major federally funded center award that builds on the success of the COBRE on Experimental Infectious Disease Research, now in its 15th year, in the state of Louisiana. The new center is supported by the strong biomedical infrastructure provided by existing SVM Cores including cores administered by the SVM Division of Biotechnology & Molecular Medicine, or BioMMED, and the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development, or ORED,” said Kousoulas, who is also the BioMMED director. ”LSU plans to submit additional COBRE applications in the future.”

Although the theme of CLBD is pulmonary disease, it is open to all researchers on campus and in the state of Louisiana. Once junior faculty members receive independent R01 NIH funding, they will be graduated from the COBRE and replaced by eligible junior faculty members. For example, Mehra, a COBRE project investigator, advanced from the LSU-TNPRC COBRE due to her R01 award from the NIH, which was granted during the review process for this current COBRE grant, making her the first graduate of the CLBD.

“We are optimistic that other junior investigators will follow Dr. Mehra’s path to become independent investigators,” Jeyaseelan said. “We are incredibly proud, really excited and extremely grateful to pursue this into the next phase of the COBRE support.”


About LSU School of Veterinary Medicine

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 30 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. The LSU SVM is dedicated to improving the lives of people and animals through education, research and service. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.



Contact Ginger Guttner
LSU School of Veterinary Medicine


Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations