MDI Biological Laboratory
Press Release

Longtime MDI Bio Lab Leader Patricia Hand Honored

Hand led NIH’s rural training and research initiatives to success in Maine

Patricia Hand, Ph.D., was presented today with the 2024 W. Fred Taylor Award, for outstanding contributions to the National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Award program (IDeA).

The award, presented by the independent EPSCor/IDeA Foundation, honors the commitment and service of W. Fred Taylor, Ph.D., a founding director of the IDeA program, which is administered by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

Taylor was instrumental in the success of the program’s mission to expand opportunities for students, young faculty and institutions in states and territories that had historically seen low levels of biomedical research funding. Hand, an immunologist and longtime senior staffer at MDI Bio Lab, proved to be a talented and dedicated partner for such efforts in Maine.

“I’m honored to receive this award, as I have the utmost respect and admiration for what Dr. Taylor and his NIGMS colleagues have done to strengthen biomedical research capacity in IDeA states,” Hand said. “It was the highlight of my career to work with my colleagues at MDI Biological Laboratory, and other institutions in Maine, regionally and nationally on this significant initiative.”

Hand received the award during a luncheon held in the Intercontinental Hotel. Also on hand were MDI Bio Lab’s president, Herman Haller, M.D., Chief of Staff Jeri Bowers and James Coffman, Ph.D., the current director of the Maine INBRE, an IDeA-funded network of state research and academic institutions that Hand established and led for 15 years.

“Thousands of Maine students and young faculty have benefited from Dr. Hand’s scientific vision and administrative brilliance,” Haller said. “Thanks to her high standards and hard work, the Maine INBRE is a shining example of how well-placed federal investments can unlock a rural state’s potential for scientific achievement and competitiveness in the biomedical economy.”

In 2001, Maine was among the first states to be tapped for a new IDeA initiative, now called the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, or INBRE. MDI Bio Lab was chosen to lead the Maine INBRE; Hand was its Principal Investigator from its inception until 2016.

The Maine INBRE started out as a consortium of six research and academic that collaborated to provide students with firsthand research experience, support early-career faculty and build more robust research infrastructure. Some two decades later, the resource-sharing network now embraces 14 institutions in Maine and is poised for more growth.

Since it began, the Maine INBRE has provided hands-on research experience to more than 2,600 students, created and sustained more than 100 jobs in the state, provided $87 million in direct funding to state institutions, and provided resources to early career faculty that helped them win more than $110 million in other federal research grants.

Ninety percent of Maine INBRE graduates have gone on to  advanced degrees or careers in scientific and medical fields; 21% have pursued those goals here in Maine.

“Patricia was the driving force for establishing and growing the Maine INBRE program and network of institutions,” said MDI Bio Lab’s James Coffman, Ph.D., who now directs the Maine INBRE. “This was no small feat, as there was no precedent to provide a model for the undertaking. Patricia took up the challenge, recognizing the exceptional opportunity the program afforded for developing Maine’s largely disconnected collection of research and academic institutions into a cohesive collaborative network, to the benefit of all.”