By Tyler Francischine
For the first time in its 61-year history, the UF College of Medicine’s annual grant awards from the National Institutes of Health eclipsed $100 million for the 2017 federal fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
The figure contributes to a total of $141.8 million of NIH awards to the colleges, centers and institutes that comprise UF Health, the university’s academic health center. This marks the seventh consecutive year that NIH funding for UF Health has increased, advancing what we know in many areas, including cancer, diabetes and neurological diseases.
“Due to the talent, dedication and persistence of faculty and staff across UF Health, there has been consistent improvement in NIH funding,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health.
“This continuing growth shows the scientific excellence of the research conducted by UF faculty at UF Health is recognized at the national level.”
Reaching this milestone is testament to the expertise and hard work of researchers and physicians, both those who have worked at the college for many years and those recently recruited as part of UF’s preeminence faculty recruiting initiative, said UF College of Medicine Dean Michael L. Good, M.D.
“Achieving $100 million in NIH grant awards demonstrates the momentum of our faculty and propels us forward as one of the nation’s best public research universities and medical schools,” he said.
Stephen Sugrue, Ph.D., the UF College of Medicine senior associate dean for research affairs, said the college experienced a funding increase of 8.5 percent over the last year, exceeding the 6 percent increase in the NIH budget. He gave credit to the dedication and expertise of the college faculty.
“Not only did the number of grants increase, the size of our grants also increased considerably,” he said. “This means we are doing bold, multidisciplinary science with a high impact. These are cooperative, collaborative efforts. Our biggest success is in recruiting the right people who can form teams to attack important issues of human health.”
Sugrue said many of the research areas receiving NIH grants involve experimental therapeutics, research aimed at understanding the fundamental causes of diseases and creating new treatments to prevent or reverse their effects.
Examples of the types of research attracting NIH funding include exploration of neurodegenerative diseases, the brain, cancer, diabetes, sepsis, infectious diseases and age-related diseases, according to Sugrue. He points to the work of Laura P.W. Ranum, Ph.D., the director of the UF College of Medicine’s Center for NeuroGenetics, as an example of important, NIH-funded research.
Ranum said NIH funding has supported her laboratory since 1994, where her team has studied how gene mutations contribute to diseases like amyotropic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
“We’ve cloned genes that cause various neurological diseases. We’ve used preclinical models to understand how those diseases work, and now we’re using those models to develop therapeutic strategies to prevent and reverse disease,” she said. “NIH funding has been critical every step of the way.”