Delaware State University has received a five-year, $18.36 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will support the establishment of the Interdisciplinary Health Equity Research (IHER) Center on campus.

This funding marks the largest research grant ever awarded to Delaware State University in its school history, surpassing the previous record of $10.9 million received from the NIH in 2017 in support of the institution’s Delaware Center for Neuroscience Research. 

According to the University, their growth in federal research awards has doubled to $45 million since 2016.

The Interdisciplinary Health Equity Research Center team gather for a group shot during the Nov. 30 media event in which the University celebrated the award of a school-record five-year $18.36 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant is awarded through the NIH’s Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program and will enable the IHER Center to bring together a group of interdisciplinary faculty researchers.

Dr. Melissa Harrington, the University’s Associate Vice President of Research and the co-Principal Investigator of the grant says the grant will help improve the significant health disparities within Delaware.

“The IHER Center that we will establish with this new grant will develop interventions that can improve health by changing peoples’ behavior and modifying their risk factors – problems that can be best addressed through collaborative research that engages the community and partners with community-based organizations,” Dr. Harrington said.

“The Center will have a Community Engagement Core to help develop those collaborations and partnerships, and we will particularly target Kent and Sussex Counties as lower Delaware has been relatively understudied and underserved.”

State Sen. Trey Paradee noted some of the health disparities in Delaware’s black and brown communities that the IHER Center will address. He said “The infant mortality rate in our state for children of color is nearly four times that of white children. That is a terrible mark on our state, and we need to do a better job of addressing that.”

The University reports that the IHER Center will provide opportunities to establish pilot grant programs for early-stage investigators for research related to understanding and eliminating health disparities. They will also recruit scientists skilled in behavioral and social research related to health equity for their interdisciplinary team of researchers.

Delaware State president, Dr. Tony Allen said the grant represents a unique opportunity for the University to make an impact on the community.

“We have much more work to do, but this opportunity is symbolic of two things. An exceptional interdisciplinary faculty who can focus on the most pressing, real-world scientific inquiry of our time and a commitment to bringing our intellectual capital – faculty, staff, and students – to the communities we call home.”

– Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University

According to the University, the grant funding will support researchers by developing or expanding core facilities providing services in biostatistics, qualitative social and behavioral research methods, microscopy, and electrophysiology. The project will also support investigators working with human subjects by providing an infrastructure for the secure collection, analysis, and storage of data.

The IHER Center Project will involve faculty from the University’s College of Agriculture, Science and Technology; College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences; College of Business; and Wesley College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Harrington hopes that the NIH funding and the new IHER Center will make DSU a leading institution for behavioral, social, and biomedical research related to health disparities.

Sen. Paradee said that the NIH grant will contribute to the growth of the University.

“When you attract research dollars, you attract more talented professors who want to be a part of something great,” Sen. Paradee said. “When you attract talented professors, obviously you are delivering a better education experience for our young people who come to Delaware State University.”