Administrative Core (AC)
The BBRC was created to enhance the quality and pace of biomedical research on diseases that disproportionately affect our majority Hispanic Community (82%), low-income, geographically remote, and medically underserved population comprising the Paso del Norte Region. To promote these outcomes, BBRC research scientists engage and collaborate with community stakeholders and researchers at local hospitals, regional and national universities and other RCMI institutions. The cores and cancer research projects within the BBRC play complementary roles in improving the quality, volume, and efficiency of research across the university. The AC provides administrative support and facilitates communication among its faculty members, oversees fiscal, contractual and regulatory issues and activities, and coordinates interactions with RTRN/RRCN (RCMI Translational Research Network/RCMI Research Coordination Network). Additionally, the AC supports intra- and inter-institutional collaborations, partnerships, resource sharing, mentoring, professional development, and most important, research project development and implementation.
Organization and Duties of the Administrative Core (AC)
The AC is responsible for the overall management and coordination of the Center. It provides governance and operational management functions to facilitate the establishment and functioning of the cores and the successful execution of the research projects.
Principal Investigator – Dr. Robert A. Kirken
Dr. Robert A. Kirken serves as Principal Investigator, guided by the External Advisory Committee. He is the Dean of College of Science and has served in the capacity of BBRC Program Director or Principal Investigator since 2005. He also serves as Chair of the RTRN Core Research Resources-subcommittee and Publications and Biorepository working group. Dr. Kirken joined UTEP in 2005 after working as an Assistant and then tenured Associate Professor for seven years at The University of Texas Houston Medical School in the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology with a joint appointment at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Bio immunotherapy group.
Prior to this position, Dr. Kirken held a prestigious fellowship at the National Cancer Institute for five years before accepting a Staff Scientist Position within the same program. He has established himself as an internationally recognized cancer researcher with expertise in the areas of immunology and T-cell cancer biology. He has had grants from NIH in the form of R01, R03, R21, SBIR as well as from the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Roche Organ Transplantation Research Foundation, and Coldwell Foundation. He has also collaborated with Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Premier Biomedical Inc., and Senexta Therapeutics.
Since joining UTEP, Dr. Kirken continues to be active in research, seek grants, patents his findings, and trains and mentors mostly underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students within his lab. His former students seek additional training at graduate programs, medical, dental, or schools of pharmacy, and have been accepted in post-doctoral or biotech/industry positions as senior scientists. His qualifications and experience are a tremendous asset to the BBRC and support the goals and mission of the Center.
Research Deputy Director – Dr. Renato Aguilera
Dr. Aguilera, a tenured full Professor of Biological Sciences, he serves as the Research Deputy Director of the RCMI-BBRC. He is an accomplished scientist and consistently funded by NIH. He joined UTEP in 2000. His research is in the area of cellular immunology with a focus on B-cells and IgG class switch. In addition, Dr. Aguilera has developed assays for screening of chemical libraries on a variety of human cancer cells; and has developed one of the very few Hispanic cancer cell lines in existence. Dr. Aguilera has held numerous positions of leadership at UTEP and national organizations. In addition to currently serving as the BBRC Program Director, he has also been PI of UTEP’s RISE and SCORE programs. Dr. Aguilera reviews RTRN pilot grants and abstracts for the symposia and serves on the Core Resources Subcommittee and has strong research experience.
Cores Deputy Director – Dr. Michael J Kenney
Dr. Kenney serves as the Cores Deputy Director of the BBRC RCMI. In his current position as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Science at UTEP, Dr. Kenney is very familiar with the research infrastructure and processes both at the College and University levels. Prior to his appointment to UTEP in 2015, Dr. Kenney was the Department Chair of Anatomy and Physiology at Kansas State University; where he also served as the college's director of the Veterinary Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the Basic Research Immersion Training Experience, or BRITE program, and co-director of the Veterinary Research Scholars Program. Dr. Kenney served as a Mentor on the 2016 NRMN grant writing workshop in Atlanta, GA, and currently leads bimonthly grant writing/review group meetings at UTEP with junior and senior faculty to assist in their development. Dr. Kenney's research is focused on understanding regulation of the sympathetic nervous system by combining central and peripheral electrophysiological methods with molecular biological techniques to study mechanisms regulating central sympathetic outflow. He has is currently a NIH R01 Funded investigator (continuously funded for more than 20 years).
The BBRC Coordinator, Ms. Mayanin Acuña, has over 25 years of experience as the BBRC Coordinator. She manages the budgetary aspects of the program and track progress of deliverables such as publications, presentations, patents and grant.
The BBRC Administrative Assistant, Susie Loera, assists with the day-to-day financial aspects of the BBRC, meeting planning and coordination, annual reviews, BBRC seminar series, and other administrative tasks.