Center for Cellular Signaling's success spurs COBRE renewal

September 30, 2013

Image with caption: Keith Johnson, Ph.D.

Keith Johnson, Ph.D.

Keith Johnson, Ph.D., director of the Department of Oral Biology's Nebraska Center for Cellular Signaling (NCCS), has been awarded $4.9 million from the National Institutes of Health to support an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE).

The IDeA program builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research, faculty development and infrastructure improvements.

This is the third phase of funding for the Nebraska Center for Cellular Signaling. The late Margaret Wheelock, Ph.D., obtained the awards for Phases I and II. The program started in 2003, and with this award funding will now run through 2018. The three awards total $25 million.

"The Phase III COBRE renewal will further strengthen the Nebraska Center for Cellular Signaling under the leadership of Dr. Johnson," said Jeffrey Payne, D.D.S., the College of Dentistry's associate dean for research. "This grant will support collaborative research across UNMC colleges and departments in the area of cellular signaling and will facilitate the NCCS' trajectory as a self-sustaining center."

"We have accomplished each of our goals with exceptional success."


Keith Johnson, Ph.D.

The award, administered by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, provides funding to continue The Nebraska Center for Cellular Signaling, with the specific aims of:

  • Providing support to sustain collaborative research and mentoring of new investigators in the realm of cellular signaling.
  • Strengthening research capabilities, innovation and funding support for investigators affiliated with the NCCS.
  • Graduating the NCCS from IDeA funding as a self-sustaining center of research excellence in cellular signaling.

The stated objectives of the center, when created with Phase I and II COBRE funding, were:

  • To expand the current focus on cellular signaling.
  • To increase the research profile of research universities in Nebraska, especially the UNMC College of Dentistry.
  • To contribute to the development of promising young faculty, so that they will become prominent members of the scientific community as evidenced by significant NIH funding, publication of important manuscripts, service on review panels and invitations to speak across the country.

"We have accomplished each of our goals with exceptional success," Dr. Johnson said in his Phase III application.

The renewal also signifies the college's position as a leader among U.S. dental schools in cellular signaling in cancer, Dr. Payne said. He praised Dr. Johnson and his team "for their hard work and dedication which has resulted in this significant accomplishment."

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