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Oct. 7, 2014

GRHD solidifies strong research reputation

By Dan Levindofske

Old student centerSince its inception, the Cleveland State University Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease (GRHD) has strived to establish itself as one of the top centers in the country.

GRHD was first established in the Fall of 2008 in response to the Ohio Board of Regents Mission Differentiation Plan, which identified Biomedical Science as one of Cleveland State’s signature programs, according to GRHD director Anton Komar.

The center was started with a $900,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission’s Ohio Research Scholars Program, which was created to help Ohio’s research enterprise grow.

Just two years after being launched, the Ohio Board of Regents named GRHD the Center of Excellence at Cleveland State, which is given to the most established center at the university.

The GRHD has not only performed well at Cleveland State, but also compares favorably with other top centers across the country, according to Komar.

“Certainly at CSU, in terms of the amount of money and productivity, [the program] would be among the top-10, maybe the top-15, centers in the United States,” Komar said.

One such center that GRHD can be compared with is the Center for RNA Molecular Biology at Case Western Reserve University.

“We can compare, for the past five years, in terms of their productivity and the number of papers produced and how often these papers were cited,” Komar said. “If you compare our productivity, you will have very similar productivity to the RNA Center.”

This productivity can be measured using the h-index, or Hirsch index, which measures both productivity and impact of a published work by number of citations.

“It’s a standard way to measure the productivity that also was recommended to assess the productivity of individual researchers,” Komar said. “The same measure can be used to measure the productivity of the center as a unit.”

GRHD posted an h-index of 18, comparable to Case Western’s RNA Center, with 100 papers published in esteemed journals in the past five years, cited more than 1000 times.

“The Hirsch index shows how many times a paper coming out of the center has been cited,” Komar said. “For example, our Hirsch index will be 18, meaning that 18 papers coming from the center were cited at least 18 times each for these past five years.”

GRHD has also contributed greatly to the funding of Cleveland State, garnering $11,837,417 in extramural funding and grants and $1,850,000 in private donations from Parker Hannifin Corporation. The center is projected to bring in more than $15 million by the end of 2014.

This comes after a time when funding was not so easy to come by for GRHD, as Komar notes.

“We are, again, back on track,” Komar said. “It was difficult times in terms of funding — there was an unprecedented decline in funding during the last, maybe, 10 years. We’re getting our momentum back, we’re getting more grants.”

By bringing in nearly $15 million in funding to Cleveland State, GRHD has brought in around $2.5 million in indirect costs, 20 percent of which goes
to the center.

GRHD researchers also currently hold five active NIH grants, which account for all of the NIH grants at Cleveland State, more than Akron University and Kent State University. Although it is not as many as the six that Bowling Green State University received, it is more intotal funding.

Despite all of these statistical achievements by GRHD, Komar insists that they are not all that matters to the center.

“The goal of the center is to produce quality science,” Komar said. “The goal is not to have numbers.”

In order to discover whether or not the center does indeed produce good science, a GRHD External Advisory Committee has compiled a report to present to Cleveland State’s upper administration.

The committee includes four members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, including George Stark, who is a former director of the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and Stephen Benkovic, who received a National Medal of Science from President Obama.

Other members of the committee include William Baldwin, Carlos Bustamante, Paul DiCorleto, Harry Noller and Roy Silverstein.

Komar, who is one of the co-founding members of GRHD, would like to attract the attention of the university community to the center.

“The center brings together excellent scientists working in the fields of biology and chemistry in studying the problems related to gene regulation, health and disease at this university,” Komar said.

The GRHD consists of 15 faculty members from three departments.