Emory Report

October 4, 1999

 Volume 52, No. 7

Research funding shows extraordinary growth in '90s

University researchers brought in a record-breaking $205.7 million during the 1999 fiscal year, a 25 percent increase over last year. In the past seven years, Emory's sponsored research base has more than doubled, going from $95.4 million in 1992 to $205.7 million.

"This achievement belongs to the faculty," said Nancy Wilkinson, director of the office of sponsored research. "This year we had 40 researchers who received grants of $1 million or more. That's twice as many as last year. This is a huge milestone for Emory--to pass $200 million dollars in research funding."

Wilkinson said Provost Rebecca Chopp and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael Johns are planning a celebration to honor the faculty later this fall. Details will be announced when they become available.

"What we have to remember is that there is great value in the scholarship that goes on at Emory, regardless of the dollars," said Wilkinson. "The work being done by Emory researchers will benefit society, and that's something we don't ever want to lose sight of, even though it's easier to talk about the nuts and bolts of research funding."

The federal government provided $156 million (75.9 percent) of this year's total, a 33 percent increase over 1998's total of $117.6 million. Much of this came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which awarded Emory $125.3 million (80 percent) of all federal dollars, up 33 percent from $94.3 million in 1998.

In FY99, Emory researchers requested $320 million--a 4 percent increase in the dollar amount requested, but in 23 fewer grants. "This demonstrates that Emory's research faculty has reached a saturation point due to their success. There may be a be marginal growth in proposals submitted in the future," said Wilkinson.

Graduate School Dean Don Stein, who has been overseeing the office of sponsored research for the past couple of months, echoed Wilkinson's caution about not to expect a repeat of this sizeable growth. "It's not realistic to expect a huge increase next year," said Stein. "Many people get funded for three to four years at a time. Unless we hire new faculty, it's unlikely to expect that level of growth."

Stein also emphasized that Emory has a number of researchers who received smaller dollar-value grants. "The science is just as good--it's just not as expensive. Those people should also be appreciated," he said. "I judge research funding success by the frequency with which people get funded, not just by the dollars they bring in."

"We were more successful in getting federal funding this year," said Wilkinson. "And the NIH, our primary funding agency, has had an increase in its resources. In addition, the dollar size of the awards Emory researchers receive has been growing--the average new federal award is up 45 percent to $196,039. That's what is significant about the federal funding we've received. Emory is now closer to our peer institutions' average grant size."

As in the past, Health Sciences led the way in research dollars with $192 million, securing 93.4 percent of the total. Grants to the medical school totaled $142.8 million in FY99, a 27 percent increase over the previous year. Other highlights include: the Rollins School at $24.6 million, up 19 percent; Yerkes at $23.2 million, up 25 percent; and Emory College at $11.4 million, up 15 percent.

University departments that generated at least $7 million in grants were medicine: ($28.4 million); neurology ($21.4 million); surgery ($9.3 million); psychiatry ($8.9 million); pediatrics ($8.4 million); behavioral science and health education ($7.8 million); epidemiology ($7.8 million); Yerkes division of microbiology and immunology ($7.5 million); pathology ($7.3 million); and biochemistry ($7.2 million).

"The faculty in the School of Medicine have done extremely well within the past year," said Robert Rich, executive associate dean of the medical school. "The percentage gain in grants from the NIH is greater than any other Top 30 medical school in the country. I'm very proud of what the faculty are achieving."

The neurology department received several significant grants for projects funded by the NIH, although Wilkinson noted that the department totals are somewhat artificially inflated since in two cases the department received two payments on major multi-year grants during the fiscal year. "Previously, the department of neurology had only one researcher who received more than $1 million annually; now they have five," said Wilkinson.

Neurologist Marc Chimowitz received some $6 million in research funding for his study of warfarin vs. aspirin for intracranial arterial stenosis. Neurology Professor Mahlon DeLong will receive a total of $7.6 million over five years to support the newly designated Parkinson's Disease Research Center of Excellence, one of three in the country funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

"The Department of Medicine show enormous growth in such areas as cardiology, which had the largest dollar increase, infectious diseases, nephrology and endocrinology," said Wilkinson. Funding received by the Department of Surgery also grew considerably.

-Jan Gleason

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