Xavier University of Louisiana received a $19.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand student participation in biomedical programs.

The award is part of a $240 million NIH investment involving more than 10 institutions. Xavier and other recipients will establish a national consortium to train, mentor and encourage students from underrepresented groups to enter into and stay in research careers.

“Xavier is already No. 1 in the nation as the primary undergraduate source of African-American Ph.D.s in the life sciences,” said Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University. “Yet, with this grant, we believe we can triple the number of these graduates and increase the number of African-American life science Ph.D.s nationally by 10 percent.”

Xavier will serve as the primary institution for its grant, partnering with Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, LSU and its Health Science Center, Tulane University, The University of Wisconsin, Meharry Medical College, George Washington University, Penn State University, the University of Rochester and the University of California San Francisco.

Xavier will oversee implementation of a program to broaden the interests of students early in their college careers and attract them to a life sciences Ph.D.

The primary benefit to the 11 partners is access to Xavier STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students to participate in their summer research programs and ultimately attract those students to their graduate programs.

“Working with our partner research universities across the nation, this NIH grant will greatly increase the opportunities for our students to become even more actively engaged in cutting-edge research and to go on to get life science Ph.D.s,” said Dr. Gene D’Amour, Xavier’s principal investigator for the grant.

The so-called BUILD Initiative is expected to include five components:

  • Tuition scholarships, including stipends, for undergraduate BUILD scholars and possible loan repayment funds for those who pursue a Ph.D.
  • Training and mentorship for students across a wide range of biomedical sciences.
  • Salary support for key faculty responsible for research training.
  • Resources for highly effective mentors to train new mentors.
  • Support for BUILD institutions to develop additional ways to increase the diversity of the student pool that enters Ph.D. training relevant to biomedical research.