By El Webb

UNM College of Pharmacy Research Center Tackling Statewide Environmental Toxins

A new University of New Mexico research center is poised to help New Mexico become a cleaner, safer place to live and work, thanks to a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant.

The NIH recently awarded a four-year, $5.1 million center grant for the New Mexico Integrative Science Program Incorporating Research in Environmental Sciences (NM-INSPIRES) Center, which is housed within the College of Pharmacy.

The center was created to support investigators conducting basic and translational studies that address the needs and concerns of New Mexico communities related to environmental health issues.

A lot of people in New Mexico don’t even have access to clean drinking water. If you look at the statistics, underserved people in New Mexico and nationally are more vulnerable to environmental insults.
Sarah Blossom, PhD, NM-INSPIRES director

“We have a lot of environmental concerns that impact communities in New Mexico, and it’s important to have this kind of infrastructure at UNM to support this research,” said NM-INSPIRES Director Sarah Blossom, PhD. “Our scientific theme is to bridge the gap between studying these legacy contaminants, but also, we’re wanting to look at emerging contaminants.”

Blossom said these New Mexico-specific contaminants include those from the uranium mines along the Grants Mineral Belt to toxic fracking chemicals used in oil and gas operations.

These types of contaminants can pollute air, soil and water, she said. Those pollutants can then expose humans of all ages to a plethora of chemicals and environmental stressors.

“A lot of people in New Mexico don’t even have access to clean drinking water,” she said. “If you look at the statistics, underserved people in New Mexico and nationally are more vulnerable to environmental insults.”

Towards the end of the grant’s cycle, in 2025, Blossom said she will reapply for the grant.

“It’s just a fantastic opportunity for people, and we’ve gotten a lot of resources for people, like equipment,” she said. “It’s really been great for the state and for the university, too.”

The research core center (P30) grant was granted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a research agency under the NIH that has been contributing to environmental health research for more than 50 years.

“This is a landmark program of the institute that is designed to provide infrastructure support to universities across the country,” Blossom said. “The aim of these centers is to guide and support environmental health research at institutions and foster new ideas, and collaborations among investigators.”

There are 22 NIEHS-funded environmental health sciences core centers in the country. The UNM center as well as one at John Hopkins University are the newest additions.

NM-INSPIRES hosts four cores, including Bioanalytical Chemistry, Community Engagement, Biostatistics and Data Sciences and Integrated Health Sciences Facility Core. There are also four research focus groups: Communication and Implementation Sciences, Inhalation and Cardiopulmonary Toxicology, Environmental Cancer, and Immunology, Inflammation and Infectious Disease.

“If you look at the map of all the centers, many of them are located on the east coast. But there are a lot of environmental concerns here,” Blossom said. “We’re happy to have one of these centers in New Mexico.”

Blossom said NM-INSPIRES members consist of senior, mid-career and early-career investigators with current environmentally relevant funded research programs.

Interested members – such as investigators with strong interests in environmental health research, but are lacking ongoing peer-reviewed research, or investigators with established research but are developing collaborations with full members that are not yet seasoned investigators – are encouraged to reach out to Blossom and apply for membership.

“We are hoping more people reach out and want to engage with us,” Blossom said. “We’re hoping to get more members, not just in the College of Pharmacy, but across the UNM Health Sciences Center.”

For information and general inquiries, contact NM-INSPIRES via 505-272-9983 or

Categories: College of Pharmacy, Research