July 30, 2004

VUMC has fastest NIH funding growth rate over past five years

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Qin Wang, Ph.D., left, and Lee Limbird, Ph.D., discovered a new regulatory mechanism for cell signaling. Photo by Anne Rayner.

VUMC has fastest NIH funding growth rate over past five years

Over the past five years, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has experienced unprecedented growth in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, with the highest growth rate in the United States. With a compound annual growth rate of 22.4 percent from 1999 to 2003, Vanderbilt topped Duke University and UCLA for the lead position.

According to Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research, several factors contributed to this growth in Vanderbilt’s research enterprise.

“The institution has focused and remained on task in executing its research strategic plan, which was commissioned by Dr. Jacobson at the time he became vice chancellor for Health Affairs in 1997, a time when Vanderbilt hovered near 30th in the NIH rankings,” he said. “Assembled under Dr. Lee Limbird’s direction, a consensus plan was developed through active input from investigators throughout the institution, and this plan was the road map for a multi-year effort to expand the research enterprise.”

Balser also pointed to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s expansion under the leadership of its director Hal Moses, M.D.

The center has fueled the development of numerous research programs, as well as funded cores, such as DNA sequencing, that investigators throughout the research enterprise now routinely use, he said.

“In fact, our research cores have become so outstanding that they are a beacon for recruiting faculty from institutions across the country,” Balser said.

Also adding to the growth in grant funding is the successful recruitment of 14 new department chairs, according to Balser. Since arriving in 2000, Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, has recruited nine of these chairs.

“Many of our department chairs, both new and longstanding, have aggressively driven the growth of the research enterprise, with visionary strategic plans, recruitment of premier senior investigators and careful attention to junior faculty development,” Balser said.

A bold move in 2001 also led to the successful attainment of NIH grants, he said. The decision to mobilize more than $100 million in assets to create the Academic Venture Capital Fund has helped spawn a number of large-scale research programs, including the Institute for Chemical Biology, the Institute for Imaging Science, the Mass Spectrometry Research Center, and most recently, a zebrafish genetics program. In addition, these funds are having a major impact on the growth of the bioinformatics and nanomedicine programs for Vanderbilt.

“These investments will catalyze the growth of our research enterprise for years to come, and will be foundational elements in a new research plan that we will develop together over the next year,” Balser said.