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McLaughlin Research Institute awarded $13.8M grant

McLaughlin Research Institute
Posted at 6:18 PM, Feb 05, 2024

McLaughlin Research Institute vice president MegAnne Casey was thrilled to hear the news that MRI has received $13.8 million from the National Institutes of Health.

“This grant is unprecedented for the research institute,” said Casey.

The grant money will launch the Center for Integrated Biomedical and Rural Health Research or CIB-RHR, expanding the research enterprise over the next five years, with an ultimate hope of bringing healthcare improvements to the state.

“What this allows is for us to recruit faculty, to support the faculty that we do have, and to support studies by Touro and Benefits and Great Falls Clinic,” said Dr. Renee Reijo Pera, MRI President and CEO and Touro College Research Dean.

“It was very competitive, but we came out number one and this will really help change things around here and solidify research as part of part of the Great Falls economic future,” said MRI Board of Directors Chair, Randy Gray.

“McLaughlin is a special place where it has the small-town feel, but we do really great work here. We're excited to be able to expand that research,” said Brena Canine, an assistant professor at both MRI and Touro College.

Canine is hoping after a ten-year break, her research project on diabetes can be a part of the pilot project.

According to press release from MRI, the focus on integrated biomedical and rural health research will enable recruitment of additional healthcare researchers and build cohesiveness around a common goal to address rural health in a multi-disciplinary fashion that includes basic, translational, and clinical studies.

The new CIB-RHR is Montana’s first outside of Bozeman or Missoula. The CIB-RHR is a collaboration between MRI and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. The center’s first four projects have been identified focusing on Alzheimer’s Disease, Chronic Wasting Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Age Related Retinal Disorders.

“Since I got hired two and a half years ago, really working on building our research capacity here at McLaughlin,” said MRI Assistant Professor Tiffany Hensley-McBain, Ph. D. “And so we've been trying to get one of these grants. They're very prestigious. They connect us to other centers of biomedical research excellence all around the country.”

“It's really exciting because it was a collaborative effort between all of us,” said MRI Assistant Professor Andrea Grindeland, Ph. D. “Three out of four of us are Great Falls Natives and will help to perpetuate us to the next level of research.”

“The grant really allows this pipeline to be established to allow hopefully people like us to be off the grant and within, you know, three years, and for new investigators to come on to the grant,” said MRI Assistant Professor Moses Leavens, Ph.D.

“These kind of grant mechanisms really make a big difference for young researchers such as myself to be able to get funding to kind of support the lab in the early stages,” said MRI Assistant Professor Mikael Klingeborn, Ph. D.

In her application for the grant, Dr. Reijo Pera said McLaughlin’s nontraditional nature and unique location as the home to this type of research center serves as an advantage.

“We believe in distributed research opportunities,” said Reijo Pera. “That there should be research and internships across the state and across the United States, including in rural areas like ours.”

McLaughlin Research Center will also be celebrating National Science Day by hosting an open house on February 28th from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The facility is located at 1520 23rd Street South in Great Falls.