April 13, 2016
The UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) will receive a $5.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund another five years of research. The award is the fourth time NIH has provided five-year funding for the center.
“We are proud that the NIH has selected UNC as one of 12 centers of excellence in research, recognizing that our nutrition and obesity research is among the best in the country,” said Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of nutrition and pediatrics. Zeisel also is co-director of NORC and of UNC’s Nutrition Research Institute, located in Kannapolis, N.C.
“This award supports the research of many investigators at the UNC campuses in Chapel Hill and Kannapolis, as well as researchers from across the world who study obesity and nutrition-related diseases, by providing essential core facilities that all can make use of,” Zeisel said.
Since its inception in 1999, the NORC has developed expertise in community, population-based and clinical research and worked to translate and implement academic findings in clinic settings and the community.
Specifically, the NORC aims to increase the impact and presence of nutrition and obesity research at UNC. The Center provides resources and leadership to enhance and extend the university’s research in nutrition and obesity; enhances nutrition education for health professionals and nutrition scientists, including the nutrition training programs at UNC; and helps translate findings from nutrition and obesity research so that the general public can use this information to improve their overall health and well-being.
Through its research facilities, the NORC deploys epidemiological and diet assessment tools for use in community and population-based studies of the relationships between behavior, diet and health status, offering techniques and resources for the development of interventions aimed at health promotion and disease prevention.
The center also provides molecular and biochemical analytical tools for assessment of metabolism and nutrition biomarkers, expertise in animal metabolic phenotyping and access to unique mouse models of metabolic disease. During the new funding cycle, the NORC also will work with public health researchers to address ways that individual genetic makeup has an impact upon nutrition and obesity phenotypes.
From an initial membership of 55, the NORC has grown to include 130 scientists from 36 different UNC departments and divisions. Members are international leaders in nutrition and obesity research who have been awarded more than $179 million in nutrition- and obesity-focused grants during the last five years alone.
The NORC also has been successful in advancing the careers of UNC’s junior investigators. Since 1999, 58 investigators have been awarded $2.3 million in support of new and innovative research in nutrition and obesity. These awardees have received more than $42 million in external research support, the majority which has come from NIH.
“The center is unique in the extent to which we promote and support transdisciplinary nutrition research, ranging from basic science to behavioral interventions, said Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, NORC co-director and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and chair of the nutrition department. “During this new funding cycle, our goal is to remain committed to improving nutrition in the community.”