Health group splits from CU
Black Biomedical Research Movement seeks growth

By Leticia Steffen, Daily Camera Staff Writer
July 24, 2006

After being affiliated with the University of Colorado for nearly 10 years, a Boulder-based group dedicated to public health and increasing the number of black biologists has cut ties with the school in an effort to enhance its fundraising efforts.

Spokeswoman Elle Housman said the Black Biomedical Research Movement maintained its nonprofit status through the CU Foundation. Although the affiliation with the CU Foundation was helpful because it provided credibility to the organization, Housman said, it became difficult "cutting through the red tape" to raise money through the foundation.

The nonprofit was created in 1997 as the community outreach component of a $1.2 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant was awarded to Patrick Allen, a post-doctoral researcher who came to CU in 1991 on a fellowship to study HIV through CU's molecular, cellular and developmental biology department.

Allen founded the nonprofit after seeing the need to improve health education for blacks and realizing that only 2.8 percent of all biological scientists in the world — and only 1 percent of U.S. biological scientists — were black.

Housman said the organization aims to promote health, prevent disease and increase the number of black biomedical researchers. The group is officially defined as "an AIDS research, education and information nonprofit," she said.

In addition to the challenges of raising money through the CU Foundation, the organization has found it increasingly difficult to secure government funding in recent years, Housman said.

"AIDS has fallen out of the spotlight," she said.

So the organization is trying to increase its funding efforts. One step was to retain a lawyer in New York to help the group re-establish its nonprofit status, independent of CU.

Housman said she expects that status to be official within the next month, and "then we'll be able to function and write grants and take donations."

A large part of the organization's recent activity involves outreach. Allen said he travels about once a month, speaking about health issues, sometimes with the help of black celebrities.

Allen has collaborated with Evander Holyfield, Spike Lee, Jadakiss and comedian John Lassiter.

The organization also sponsors a health symposium. In 2002, the symposium was held in Boulder and attracted about 1,500 people, Allen said.

Housman said the Black Biomedical Research Movement plans to open its headquarters in New York, but Allen will remain in Boulder, operating a local branch.

The organization estimates its membership at 5,000.