UP biology professor Elinor Sullivan awarded $3.7 million grant from National Institute of Mental Health

Awards and Rankings

Biology

December 2, 2015

University of Portland biology professor Elinor Sullivan has been awarded a $3.7 million Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The R01 is the original and one of the highest and most sought after scientific grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which oversees the NIMH. The grant provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH.

Sullivan will serve as the lead on this five-year grant, which will examine the impact of maternal obesity and high-fat diet consumption on offspring mental health and brain development using a non-human primate model. She will continue to maintain a full teaching load at the University of Portland.

Sullivan and her lab team at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) succeeded in outcompeting colleagues from numerous centers that concentrate solely on research. The grant will allow Sullivan and her students to take part in innovative, pioneering health research.

Prior studies of rodents, according to Sullivan, provide “strong evidence that maternal obesity causes a heightened inflammatory response and subsequent long-term changes in offspring brain development and behavior.” However, the effects of maternal obesity-induced inflammation on the behavior of juvenile offspring have not been examined in a primate species.

“Considering that two-thirds of pregnant American women are overweight or obese, this may be one of the most common and influential environmental risk factor for behavioral disorders,” she said.

A faculty member at the University of Portland since 2011, Sullivan has also secured funding for her research fr om the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Murdock Charitable Trust. She has worked with non-human primates at the ONPRC since 2002 and is currently an assistant scientist in the Divisions of Neuroscience and Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism. Through her teaching and mentoring of University of Portland undergraduate students, Sullivan is actively involved in training future scientists.

For more information, contact the biology department at (503) 943-7123 or bio@up.edu.

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