September 15, 2006

VUMC among nation’s elite in NIH funding

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VUMC among nation’s elite in NIH funding

Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D.

Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D.

Despite a recent tightening of the federal research budget, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has maintained its position among the nation's top medical schools for National Institutes of Health funding for the fiscal year 2005.

VUMC ranked 15 out of 123 medicals schools in the United States, according to the agency's most recent figures.

VUMC received 586 awards totaling $244.2 million, an increase from $226.8 million in 2004. Although the overall rank did not change, the figures represent an increase of 32 awards and a 7.6 percent increase in total award amount from fiscal year 2004.

Additionally, over the past five years, VUMC's growth rate in NIH funding has also outpaced the growth of the top 25 medical schools in the country, with a growth rate of 17.8 percent from 2000 to 2005. During this time, the research funding of many of the schools with larger research programs than VUMC has been stagnant; the number 10 position in the NIH rankings has been stable at $265 million in both FY04 and FY05.

"Competition for NIH funding is more intense than any time in recent history," said Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research. "But even in this atmosphere, we've closed the funding gap between Vanderbilt and the number 10 school, University of Michigan, by nearly 50 percent (from $40 to $21 million) in one year."

"We have much to be proud of — our continued growth in NIH funding, our position among the top research institutions in this country, the remarkable success of our individual departments, and, most importantly, the collaborative environment for research at Vanderbilt that enables us to not only train future leaders but create new knowledge that will ultimately benefit our patients,” said Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

Seven VUMC departments placed in the top 10 in their respective categories: Molecular Physiology and Biophysics (1), Biochemistry (2), Pharmacology (4), Cell and Developmental Biology/Cancer Biology (5), Pediatrics (6), Medicine (7), and Radiology/Radiation Oncology (10).

For the second straight year, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics was ranked as the top physiology department in the U.S. and VUMC's highest ranked basic science department.

“It is a great honor for the department to once again be ranked No. 1 in NIH support nationally. This is a tribute to our highly successful faculty and the support that we get from the Administration,” said Alan Cherrington, Ph.D., chair of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. “Perhaps of greater significance than this year's ranking is the fact that if one looks at cumulative data for the last 15 years, we rank No. 1 over the entire period.”

Pediatrics, VUMC's top-ranked clinical department, moved up to sixth place in its category, up two spots from last year.

“Our faculty has been both tenacious and creative, allowing the Department of Pediatrics research to grow. We have also continued to recruit outstanding investigators to generate new funding,” said Arnold Strauss, M.D., chair of Pediatrics. “Obviously, it is the staff and faculty in the Department of Pediatrics that we have to thank for contributing to our laboratory and clinical research efforts, to discoveries that enhance science and the care of children.”

Biochemistry made the biggest jump — eight places — to No. 2 in the U.S.

“Our Biochemistry Department continues to excel by all measures, including NIH funding in this very difficult time,” said Michael Waterman, Ph.D., chair of Biochemistry. “Each faculty member, postdoc, student, and member of the technical and administrative staffs share in this accomplishment and are to be congratulated for their talent and hard work."

“This ranking is extraordinary in itself, but I am most proud of what it represents — the dedication of our faculty members and the quality of their work,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “In an ever more competitive funding environment, they shine through.”

The top five ranked medical schools were: Johns Hopkins University ($449 million), University of Pennsylvania ($399 million), University of California San Francisco ($398 million), Washington University ($377 million), and Duke University ($349 million).

Complete award data and rankings are available on the NIH Web site