FAMU Gets $5.6M to Study Cancer, Train Researchers

Thanks to a $5.6 million grant from the federal government, Florida A&M is creating a cancer research center to study the disease and to train pharmacy students in information gathering and community outreach.

FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is already establishing its Center of Excellence for Cancer Research Training and Community Outreach to work on primarily lung and breast cancer.

The National Institutes of Health will provide FAMU with $5,626,785 over the next five years to research cancers, prepare the next generation of pharmaceutical workers and researchers and to help screen and protect at-risk residents.

Pharmacy students, mostly doctoral candidates, will be providing more screening services, like mammograms to detect breast cancer, to minorities, who are disproportionately affected by the disease and have a greater risk of mortality from it, according to lead researcher Karam Soliman, a distinguished professor in FAMU’s pharmacy program.

He said the center would work to “eliminate health disparities” among minority communities.

Soliman told guests at the announcement of the grant Wednesday that FAMU’s research experience and its track record for training workers in pharmaceutical sciences would provide a “tremendous” service through the research center.

“We’re not really starting from scratch,” Soliman said. “We have the foundation to do some good work here.”

FAMU’s pharmacy school plans to work with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital as well as community groups to increase the community’s access to cancer-detection services.

Calling the grant a “very wise” decision of NIH, FAMU Interim President Larry Robinson praised the pharmacy program’s work and predicted success from the center, which he said would “take advantage of the tremendous resources” at FAMU.

“We know that [this work] is going to translate into relief,” Robinson said. “We’re going to hear some great results.”

Professor of medicinal chemistry Ken Redda said he was elated at the grant, and that the cancer research would build on FAMU’s expertise in work.

“This is really a time to celebrate for all of us,” Redda said.

Pharmacy school dean Michael Thompson said the start of the research center would allow for more hands-on training for his students, which he said would help build the community. “This exemplifies what we are about… blending from the bench to the bedside,” Thompson said.

The grant will be coming from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. It will also provide $1,477,585 each year of the main grant to cover the costs of running the center, including paying staff and supplying the center with equipment. 

Some of the money will cover tuition and stipends for five doctoral candidates, along with providing them $20,000 each year over the five years of the grant.