Researchers at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment have won a $1.78 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to launch a center for geospatial medicine.

The center will blend psychology, geospatial technology, molecular biology, genetic epidemiology, genomics, behaviorial science and spatial statistics to study how genetic, environmental and social factors interact in affecting children’s health. The initial study will focus on neural defects.

The grant is part of NIH’s Roadmap Initiative, which is designed to encourage and support new or emerging fields of critical importance to future medical and scientific progress.

“What researchers need — and what our center will work to provide – are wholly new methods for assessing the factors’ simultaneous, combined influence,” said Marie Lynn Miranda, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative at the Nicholas School, in a statement. “The tools currently at our disposal to do this type of research are rooted in different disciplines and typically study each factor in isolation.”

Miranda will serve as principal investigator and director of the new center, Duke said in a statement.