Uma Sundaram, M.D., vice dean for research at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and a board-certified gastroenterologist, has been awarded a five-year, $10.78 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate obesity and obesity-related conditions.

“Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine continues its outstanding work to improve the health and well-being of West Virginians,” said Marshall University President Jerome A. “Jerry” Gilbert.  “This federal funding underscores the importance of the work being done here on obesity and its related disorders. I want to commend Dr. Uma Sundaram, the grant’s principal investigator, and his team for their unwavering commitment to investigating issues that affect the citizens of our region in particular, and those across the country.”

This is the first time in nearly 15 years that Marshall’s medical school has received a prestigious Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant and is the largest programmatic award in the school’s history. The federal funding is designed to help strengthen an institution’s biomedical research infrastructure.

“I am incredibly proud of our wonderful group of senior researchers led by Uma Sundaram, Gary Rankin, Zijian Xie and others who have obtained this grant to ensure the professional development of our talented junior investigators,” said Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the school of medicine. “Such funding is essential to continue our mission here at Marshall.”

Sundaram is a busy researcher whose previous work included studies in hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), peptic ulcer disease and Barrett’s esophagus, among other areas. His current research focusing on IBD, colon cancer and obesity is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Veteran’s Administration and WV Higher Education Policy Commission.  He will serve as the principal investigator and program director of the COBRE-funded Appalachian Center for Cellular transport in Obesity-Related Disorders (ACCORD) at the medical school.

“Many of the diseases we see in West Virginia and central Appalachia have their roots in widespread obesity that’s prevalent in the region,” Sundaram said. “This funding is important because it supports obesity research by young investigators at Marshall, thus building a strong foundation to support research which will have a significant impact on the future health of those in our state and region.”

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, who announced first-year funding of the project last week, commended Marshall researchers for their work.

Sundaram’s team at Marshall includes Drs. Subha Arthur, Travis Salisbury, Maria Serrat, Yanling Yan, Isabel Perez, Elaine Hardman, Todd Gress, Todd Green, Richard Egleton, James Denvir, Gary Rankin, Zijian Xie, Jung Han Kim, Don Primerano, Sutodeim Akpanudo and Mike Norton.