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UNM Health Sciences Center Research Funding Continues to Grow

Albuquerque, NM – March 6, 2014 The UNM Health Sciences Center ended 2013 with a record amount of research funding-a trend that has been consistent since 2009 and positively effects the development of valuable technologies by research faculty at UNM. To read more about how the Health Sciences Center did it, see Mike Bush’s February 24th article “$150 Million in Grants to Improve Health of New Mexicans,” from the Albuquerque Journal, reprinted below.

$150 million in grants to improve health of New Mexicans

A strategic research plan adopted a few years ago is already paying off handsomely for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center — and the local economy.

At a time when research funds and funding sources are shrinking or even drying up, the HSC obtained $150 million in grants — a record amount — during fiscal year 2013, which ended last June. Since fiscal 2009, Health Sciences has seen an 8.6 percent increase in grants.

The money is being applied to such varied projects as studying the benefits of peer counseling in treating drug addiction, understanding long-term effects of asthma medication on children and seeking ways to prevent the need for dialysis for Zuni Pueblo diabetics (for reasons that are not entirely clear, Zunis are 5.3 times as likely to develop chronic kidney disease than other Native Americans and 18.5 percent more likely than white Americans).

The progress in these and several other projects is encouraging, says Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Larson, who is also vice chancellor for research.

Larson is at ease explaining complex medical terms in easily understood language.

“Never before have we been so focused on directly advancing human health in New Mexico,” he said in a recent interview. “From larger, community-based health programs to microbiological investigations, our researchers are introducing vital insight into their study designs and health discoveries.”

Other current HSC projects include ophthalmologist Arup Das and basic scientist Paul McGuire’s research into reversing vision loss in people with diabetes. “Das brings the clinical view,” McGuire said. “I bring in basic science. Together, we move forward more quickly.”

Das is frustrated with the slow pace of research and looks forward to “a drug that’s effective that everyone will respond to.”

Then, there is Matthew Campen, principal researcher in a project studying the danger of inhaling toxins — particulates, ozone and lead, as well as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide — in the air we breathe. He said air pollution is linked to cardiovascular disease and even death, but it’s unclear why. So he’s searching.

“I’m a discovery person,” he said. “I look for the ‘eureka’ moment.”

A goal is to shorten the time from successful research to actual patient care, a concept known as “from bench to bedside.” As of today, that period is about 17 years.

Vision for health

The steady gains in biomedical research at HSC and the amount of grant funding is largely the result of Vision 2020, adopted a few years ago after considerable planning.

Vision 2020 was the nation’s first strategic plan to focus on improving a state’s health and the health of its people as a measure of an academic health institution’s success. To fulfill the goal, all HSC colleges, schools, departments and programs must demonstrate annually how their education, service and research enterprises will improve the health picture for New Mexicans.

Larson said the HSC has made several moves to increase the number of grants received, their dollar amounts and the value to New Mexicans’ health:

A team approach on research projects. A prime example is the work of Das and McGuire. Moreover, all projects focus on disease.

Services and comprehensive, on-going training for faculty members.

Investing in the Clinical and Translational Science Center and the UNM Cancer Center. The science center was established in 2005 and has already generated $75 million in grants. It uses the talents of more than 300 investigators and support professionals to advance research, offering biomedical researchers a sophisticated infrastructure to work with.

HSC researchers last year submitted 116 grant applications, and so far 58 have been awarded. “It’s been a huge boon for us,” Larson said.

Just over half of the grants received by the HSC come from federal agencies under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health. Others derive from the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, biotech firms and nonprofits such as the American Lung Association.

The HSC receives no state money for research, salaries, supplies or equipment. “We have to go and compete for all of it,” Larson said.

Source: Albuquerque Journal

For more information, contact:

Mike Bush
(505) 823-3953