UNMC research funding tops $100 million

Research funding at UNMC soared 22 percent to more than $100 million during the past fiscal year. More than $76 million of that funding came from federal sources.

UNMC research awards

A list of yearly UNMC research award totals since 1998. (in millions)

  • 1999 -- $30.9
  • 2000 -- $40.05
  • 2001 -- $41.3
  • 2002 -- $50.7
  • 2003 -- $56.2
  • 2004 -- $68.2
  • 2005 -- $72.5
  • 2006 -- $80.6
  • 2007 -- $82.2
  • 2008 -- $100.47

Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., said that UNMC's net research funding support for fiscal year 2008-2009 was $100,473,666 -- an increase over last year when medical center investigators brought in $82.2 million in external research funding.

"The new twin research towers helped make all of this happen," Dr. Maurer said. "The buildings allowed us to recruit top researchers from around the country."

Durham Research Center and Durham Research Center II, which opened in May, are home to a combined total of 215 labs and more than 550,000 square feet of space dedicated to research. Nearly 400 research projects are underway at UNMC today, in bench science labs, translational research centers and clinical trials.

Tom Rosenquist, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research, said that rising above the $100 million mark in extramural support is a major benchmark for the UNMC research initiative.

"UNMC research is like a rocket rising above 100,000 feet, now we have momentum and we've risen above the major forces holding us back. Now we can accelerate more rapidly to the next benchmark, $200 million," Dr. Rosenquist said. "The developing initiative in clinical and translational research will be the booster that gets us there.

"This achievement is a great tribute to the outstanding corps of UNMC scientists, who continue to amaze me with their innovation, energy, and growing reputation among scientists around the world."

In 1998, when he became chancellor, Dr. Maurer challenged UNMC's researchers to double funding in five years and triple it in 10. Researchers have exceeded that goal, increasing funding 322 percent in that time period.

"We still have a long way to go if we want to reach $200 million by the end of 2012," Dr. Maurer said.

Research at UNMC has helped to provide economic development to the residents of Omaha and Nebraska, Dr. Maurer said.

"New people with good paying jobs are moving here because of research," he said.

This year's highlights

Some of the funding highlights at UNMC this past year were:

  • $17.2 million NIH grant, the largest grant in Nebraska history, to James Turpen, Ph.D., to support the INBRE program aimed at producing more scientists in the state.
  • $11.1 million program project grant to Ken Bayles, Ph.D., from the NIH to research this country's most dangerous bacterial pathogens - community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), nicknamed the "superbug."
  • $10.6 million COBRE grant from the National Center for Research Resources to Alexander Kabanov, Ph.D., to research nanomedicine, drug delivery, therapeutics and diagnostics.
  • $9.1 million National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute program project grant renewal to Irving H. Zucker, Ph.D., that will allow a team of UNMC cardiovascular scientists to continue its groundbreaking heart failure research.
Every $1 million in research funding generates about 32 new jobs, Dr. Rosenquist said. The $100 million a year in research funding equates into about 3,200 skilled jobs.

Dr. Maurer said he is gratified by the tremendous work the faculty and staff have done to receive highly competitive awards.

"And Dr. Rosenquist and his staff have done great work in building a strong research program at UNMC," Dr. Maurer said.

Dr. Rosenquist said that most of the growth in research funding in the past 10 years has been in basic laboratory research and that about one-half of UNMC's research funding has historically been for cancer. But, new areas of translational research in infectious diseases and neurodegenerative diseases are rapidly growing. Dr. Maurer envisions new opportunities for UNMC.

"If we're going to be an outstanding medical center with national prominence, especially in light of health care reform coming forward, we need to focus on building institutes of excellence in primary care, brain, eye, heart and regenerative medicine, for example," Dr. Maurer said. "We already have achieved these centers in cancer and transplantation.

"Now we need to build comprehensive institutes in these areas for research, education and patient care."

Stimulus money through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) accounts for about $1 million of the total research dollars at UNMC and is expected to grow as UNMC receives stimulus grants for research and construction from the NIH this fiscal year.

Dr. Rosenquist said UNMC is moving towards its goal.

"We're closing the gap with other highly competitive institutions."


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Nasreen Maiwandi
August 04, 2009 at 9:36 AM