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Updated: August 2, 2023

MaineHealth awarded $12.9M NIH grant to strengthen research

sign and parking circle File photo The funding from the National Institutes of Health will strengthen and expand metabolic disease research at MaineHealth, whose flagship hospital is Maine Medical Center in Portland.

MaineHealth has been awarded a five-year, $12.9 million grant renewal from the National Institutes of Health to advance research into metabolic diseases including obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis.

The Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Metabolic Networks grant will allow the MaineHealth Institute for Research to support young scientists and bring new technologies to researchers at MaineHealth and across the state.

Lucy Liaw

“Our goal is to make new discoveries that can serve the health and medical needs of our communities while continuing to recruit and support the research careers of junior investigators,” said Lucy Liaw, a faculty scientist at the MHIR and the principal investigator for the grant.

“We do that by providing a strong advisory and mentorship network for our researchers and high-quality shared scientific resources. This foundation launches the career of faculty researchers, who create opportunities for our workforce and train the next generation of researchers.”

MaineHealth initially received a five-year, $11 million NIH grant for this work in 2017. In the first five years, researchers studied how tissues including fat, bone and the brain use energy and control the body's overall metabolism, and how it is altered during disease.

Over the next five years, researchers will explore topics including the impact that different kinds of fat tissue may have on diabetes, how bariatric surgery to treat metabolic disease affects bone health, and the effects of night-shift work on gestational diabetes during pregnancy and beyond.

As these researchers obtain independent grants, new opportunities will become available to support additional investigators who study metabolic diseases that are prevalent in Maine and across the country, according to MaineHealth.

“We are grateful for the support of the NIH Institutional Development Award program, which funds Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence,” said Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs, vice president for research at MaineHealth. “The work done at this COBRE is central to our mission of improving the health of our patients and communities by providing high-quality affordable care, educating tomorrow's caregivers and researching better ways to provide care.”

MaineHealth, the state's largest health care system, has a service area of 1.1 million people in Maine and New Hampshire, employs more than 19,000 people, and operates hospitals including Maine Medical Center in Portland.

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