PrintDURHAM – The world of biotechnology can seem bewildering, but the thrust in North Carolina Central University’s biotech world is twofold:  Conduct research.  And produce minority researchers.

NCCU launched the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI) in 1998, Dr. Deepak Kumar, BBRI’s Director, says in the accompanying video.

“This was the vision by the Chancellor at that time, Julius Chambers, who had this vision that we had to create biotechnology institutes at minority-serving institutions to help conduct health-disparities research, and also prepare minority researchers,” Kumar says.

Kumar describes three research thrusts at BBRI:

  • Cardiometabolic research in minority populations, combined with community outreach;
  • Neuroscientific study of the effects of alcohol and cannabinoids; among other models, NCCU’s researchers use zebrafish to study alcoholism; and
  • Cancer, including prostate cancer (that disproportionately affects African-American men), as well as colon, liver and breast cancer.

In addition, elements of nutrition research are infused into each of the programs, he says.

BBRI is one of two research institutes at NCCU.  The other is the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), which was launched in 2008 after Research Triangle Park saw an explosion in biotechnology research and manufacturing.

“The whole idea was to address the needs for the biotech industry by creating students who are prepared and ready from day one to join the biotech industry in the RTP area,” Kumar says.

The institutes complement each other, Kumar says:  If BBRI identifies a protein associated with a particular disease, BRITE has the ability to target that protein and develop both a drug to address it and the manufacturing process to produce it.

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