University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings professor receives NIH grant

June 22, 2015



Dr. Lynn George, Assistant Professor, 223-7638
Carmen Price, University Relations & Communications, 657-2266


National Institutes of Health awarded Dr. Lynn George last week with the R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — A Montana State University Billings assistant professor landed a National Institutes of Health grant to conduct research leading to a better understanding of the neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease, familial dysautonomia.
Lynn George Ph.D.
Lynn George, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Biological and Physical Sciences Department, was awarded the three-year, $332,000 R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award last week after nearly a decade of research involving the development of the peripheral nervous system and the genetic disorder, FD, also known as Riley-Day syndrome.

The syndrome is found primarily in people of Jewish descent and affects the development and survival of certain nerve cells in the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions such as digestion, breathing, production of tears and the regulation of blood pressure and body temperature.

George said she and her students are seeking to better understand the molecular complex that is defective in the disease, the same complex that can be associated with the more common neurodegenerative disease ALS. She plans to use the R15 funds to investigate the role this complex plays in acquiring ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

David McGinnis, MSUB’s director of grants and sponsored programs, said the award will propel the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences forward in exciting directions.

“The grant is highly competitive with a 16 percent award rate,” McGinnis said. “This is quite an honor for an MSUB researcher to receive such an award."

The NIH uses such awards to strengthen research environments at educational institutions as well as to promote the exposure of students to academic research. This is a renewable grant and helps cover expenses for a period of up to three years.

“The National Institutes of Health has placed a significant amount of responsibility in our hands,” said MSU Billings Chancellor Mark Nook. “The award sets the stage for Dr. George and her students to develop breakthroughs in better understanding familial dysautonomia. It also further emphasizes MSUB’s commitment to undergraduate research and discovery.”

George, who will serve as the grant’s principal investigator, said the award is the high-point of her career.

“I have been working toward this in some capacity for the last decade,” George said. “The award comes as a springboard that will allow me to expand my lab here at MSUB and provide tremendous research opportunities to students interested in neuroscience.”

The grant, she said, will add up to 18 paid undergraduate internships within MSUB’s Department of Biological and Physical Sciences throughout the course of the grant.


George received her Ph.D. at Montana State University in 2003 in biological sciences and biochemistry. The groundwork for her current research began with her post-doctoral work at MSU in Frances Lefcort's lab.


In addition to her role at MSUB, George continues her work at MSU as a research professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience.


PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Lynn George, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology