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Bringing Millions to Michigan: UM Med School 6th In NIH Funding

ANN ARBOR -- Research at the University of Michigan Medical School brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the state of Michigan in the last year -- and could have a total economic impact of nearly $1.2 billion, new data show.

The school rose to sixth among all medical schools in terms of total funding from the federal National Institutes of Health, and second among medical schools affiliated with public universities. It is the school's fourth consecutive year in the top 10.

Newly released federal data shows that UM medical researchers competed for and were awarded $319.7 million in NIH funding in federal fiscal year 2011. From all sources, including industry, foundations and other federal and state agencies, the school received $490.5 million in university fiscal year 2011.

Those dollars fund UM research projects on everything from stem cells and genetics to specific diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, children's health, depression and a broad range of rare disorders. Among the newest large projects: a multimillion dollar effort to study how diabetes disrupts the basic function of tissues in many areas of the body, leading to a lifelong downward spiral.

According to a new national study about the "ripple effect" of funding to academic medical centers, the spending of each research dollar results in about $2.60 of direct economic activity -- not counting the impact on human health from the research itself, or the potential commercialization of new inventions. With $458 million of funding actually spent by Medical School researchers in fiscal year 2011, that means nearly $1.2 billion in economic activity may have been generated.

What's more, each of the 741 UM medical research projects that were awarded funding from NIH succeeded despite an intensely competitive climate. Fiscal 2011 was only the second year in the last four decades when NIH experienced a cut in its ability to grant research funding.

That cut to the core NIH budget was made even worse by the fact that the federal stimulus package for research ended in fiscal 2010 with the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nationally, only one in six research proposals to NIH was funded in fiscal 2011 -- a sharp decline from the one-in-three odds that prevailed for decades.

"Our scientific teams continue to prevail in bringing in funding that allows them to tackle important questions in human health, seed the ground for tomorrow's treatments, and enhance patient care," says James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean of the medical school and the Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine. "We take great pride in our role in improving human health -- and our direct role in Michigan's economy."

He notes that the medical school expends more than 45 percent of all UM research funding, and generates more than a third of all U-M's technology transfer activity. In university fiscal year 2011, Medical School researchers filed 119 reports of new inventions, and accounted for 42 new patent applications and 39 new license or option agreements with private companies.

Although the total core NIH dollars flowing to the medical school dropped from 2010 to 2011, the total research funding picture for the school continues to be strong, he says. The school's close alliance with the UM Hospitals and Health Centers as part of the UM Health System, and its partnerships with UM's schools of engineering, nursing, public health, pharmacy, dentistry, kinesiology, business and the Life Sciences Institute, all play a role in this continued success.

The medical school's recent investments to support researchers appear to be bearing fruit, says Steve Kunkel, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research and Endowed Professor of Pathology.

"Our strategic effort to provide centralized core laboratories for such services as DNA sequencing and advanced microscopy, and our improvements to grant processing, industry engagement and clinical trial support, are paying off," he says. "The purchase of the former Pfizer research campus now known as the North Campus Research Complex means that researchers have rapid access to new research space. As part of our strategic plan, we will continue to focus on how we can help our researchers succeed despite a difficult funding climate."

The new data on the economic impact of academic medical research comes from the Association of American Medical Colleges, which commissioned national economic consulting firm Tripp Umbach to study the ripple effect of NIH funding at member institutions such as the UM Medical School. The multiplier of $2.60 in economic activity for every dollar in NIH funding includes the spending by the institution that received the funding, spending by employees whose salaries are fully or partly supported by research funding, and re-spending of dollars in the local economy.

As a whole, the state of Michigan ranks 12th in the nation for economic activity generated by NIH funding to academic medical centers, based on 2009 federal funding levels. In that year, Tripp Umbach calculated, the total direct economic impact of NIH funding at Michigan's three AAMC-member institutions (UM, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) was $429 million -- the bulk of it from UM. The total economic impact, both direct and indirect, was $1.1 billion.

NIH grants make up the vast majority of all research funds to the medical school. But other funding sources are becoming increasingly important. In all, UM Medical School research funding awards from all sources totaled $490.5 million in UM fiscal year 2011. Funding from all federal government sources, including NIH, totaled $399.4 million. Funding from industry reached $48.2 million; non-profit organizations provided $34.9 million; state and local governments provided $1 million; and other sources contributed $6.8 million.

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