By Ayana Hernandez
North Carolina Central University is one of six institutions awarded funds from a $6 million grant from the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for COVID-19 research and care. The announcement was made June 11 by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Historically Minority Serving Institutions (HMSI) Committee.
NCCU’s share of the funding, $1 million, will be used to create the Advanced Center for COVID-19 Related Disparities (ACCORD) at NCCU and conduct multidisciplinary research to study the public health and economic impact of COVID-19 in underserved communities in North Carolina. Specifically, the center will facilitate nasal swab testing in Anson, Cabarrus, Durham, Granville, Halifax, Rowan and Vance counties and conduct outreach with local community groups and organizations to provide culturally sensitive and effective health messaging. ACCORD will bring together more than 25 NCCU researchers through sub-projects to address COVID-19 and related disparities in NC.
The ACCORD center will be part of NCCU’s Julius L. Chambers Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute (JLC-BBRI), one of two research institutes at NCCU. BBRI conducts multidisciplinary and inter-institutional research focused on health issues that disproportionately affect minority and underserved populations, while providing students with research experiences in preparation for careers in the biomedical sciences. JLC-BBRI has five main areas of focus: cardio-metabolic, neuroscience and drug abuse, cancer research and nutrition research, and its newest community-based initiative, the HOPE program.
“NCCU is thankful for the funding and support provided by the UNC Board of Governors and the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC Chapel Hill that will expand our ability to provide critical outreach, testing, monitoring and assessment where COVID-19 is impacting the citizens of our state,” said Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye, Chancellor of NCCU. “This vital project adds to work underway at the research center aptly named for Julius L. Chambers, an attorney and trailblazer who fought to level inequities in our communities.”
Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute, stated: “The new Advanced Center for COVID Related Disparities, or ACCORD, will leverage RCMI program funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and other ongoing programs and partnerships to address the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on underserved communities, increasing our capacity to better understand and respond to the devastation caused by this pandemic. COVID-19 continues to grow as a public health crisis that has once again exposed societal injustice and paucities. However, it also offers an opportunity to transform health care and eradicate inequities.”