February 29, 2008

VUSM vaults into NIH funding top 10

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Dennis Hallahan, M.D., right, and colleagues Zhaozhong Han, Ph.D., left, and Allie Fu are studying a technique to more quickly determine a cancer treatment’s effectiveness. (photo by Neil Brake)

VUSM vaults into NIH funding top 10

Vanderbilt has reached a milestone in funding from the National Institutes of Health — the School of Medicine is now ranked No. 10 among U.S. medical schools for NIH funding in fiscal year 2007 (FY07).

While many of last year's top-ranked medical schools experienced flat or even decreasing funding, Vanderbilt's grant funding increased from $245.6 million to $282.3 million, an increase of $36.7 million — the largest increase among the top 10 schools of medicine.

While the NIH no longer publishes rankings of individual schools or departments, the NIH Web site provides a database that lists all grants and contracts awarded to schools of medicine in the United States.

According to an analysis of those figures, Vanderbilt rose from 12th place last year to 10th in the nation in FY07, passing the University of Michigan, which dropped from No. 11 to No. 13, and Stanford University, which fell from 10th to 12th. The number of investigator-initiated R01 awards, the cornerstone of the school's NIH funding portfolio, increased from 356 in FY06 to 375 in FY07.

“We've made strategic investments in research infrastructure, but this primarily reflects a tremendous effort on the part of the faculty,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research.

“At a time when competition for grants from the NIH is more intense than any time in recorded history, our investigators are having incredible success in their efforts to secure both R01 and center-based awards.

“We are out-competing our peers at the very best institutions,” Balser said. “It makes me proud to be a member of this faculty.”

“It's a tremendous achievement to break into the top 10 in research funding when the NIH budget is flat and academic medical centers are more competitive than ever before,” said Steven Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “Vanderbilt owes this achievement to the innovation, dedication and plain old hard work of our outstanding faculty.”

The National Cancer Institute was the single largest contributor to the school's research funding — $66.3 million in FY07 — demonstrating the continuing success of cancer research programs at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

“This level of success, particularly in the face of flat NIH budgets, simply could not be achieved if we were not working as a team and leveraging our strengths so effectively,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of the VICC. “We in the Cancer Center are honored to contribute to this achievement.”

“All of us know this is a tough environment for research funding, and that's why I'm especially proud of our institution's continuing success with the NIH,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “It is a tribute to our research and our researchers.”

Overall, VUMC research funding from all sources, including private foundations, corporations and federal agencies, has doubled since 2001, and now exceeds $400 million per year.