ICOM unveils new research lab with a ribbon cutting ceremony

Dr. Todd Coffey cuts the ribbon on ICOM’s new research lab.

Dr. Todd Coffey cuts the ribbon on ICOM’s new research lab.

The Idaho College of Medicine (ICOM), Idaho’s first medical school, unveiled its new research lab during a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, April 5.

"Research is a priority at ICOM,” said Dr. Todd Coffey, Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Research and Biostatistics at ICOM. “Over time, we will build our capabilities, our infrastructure, the opportunities — not just for lab research — but for medical education, for clinical research, for community research.”

The school’s newly-completed research lab, more than 1,600 square feet in size, features what’s known as wet and dry bench space, with a total of 16 benches. 

In addition, the lab meets and exceeds the standards of a Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) designation, which refers to the safety precautions that have been engineered into the lab. In a BSL-2 laboratory, researchers are able to work safely with microbes that would otherwise pose a moderate risk to human health, such as HIV, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and Salmonella. 

A biosafety committee will oversee all laboratory research, along with proper storage and disposal of material.

“Research is an essential part of any medical school,” Dr. Coffey said. “Our student doctors will one day be physicians, and they will need to be conversant with research. The best way to be a consumer of research, is really by producing it and being involved.”

ICOM’s student doctors will be provided opportunities to investigate challenging research involving the biomedical sciences, clinical trials, patient care, and medical education through a variety of avenues, including: research electives; faculty-mentored projects, and attending research conferences. 

“I have been very fortunate in that I was able to work in research for a number of years before becoming a medical student, and I can tell you from my own experiences that a very intentional, well-designed research program can be life changing for students,” said Student Doctor Amity Peterson, OMS-I. “The experience of actually getting to work hands-on in a lab, and seeing the ins and outs of how science advances, can fundamentally alter the way that a person views the world. It encourages a mentality of questioning, of asking why things are the way they are, and how can they be made better.”

ICOM has more than 30 clinical and biomedical faculty with a strong interest in collaborative research. The following seven faculty members will begin their research on their respective topics, including:

  • Andrea Belovich, PhD — Understanding how a Unique Variance of Genes Expressed in the Brain Regulate Cognition and Word Processing

  • Gergana Deevska, PhD — Role of Sphingolipids in Obesity and Obesity-Induced Comorbidities 

  • Marina Diioia, PhD — Crocodile TIRs: A Novel Mechanism of Pathogenic Immune Evasion

  • Launa Lynch, PhD — Impact of Cinnamon Flavored E-liquids on Bone Growth

  • Blaine Maley, PhD — Finding the Myocene Human Lineage in Lake Victoria

  • Brian Martin, PhD — 30 Years of Gene Regulation Research

  • Mihail Mitov, PhD — Heat Therapy Approaches for Improving Treatment of Cancer, Diabetes, Organ Transplant and Autoimmune Diseases