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Vanderbilt's Department of Medicine Sees Dramatic Increase in Research Funding for 2016

Nancy J. Brown, M.D.

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has long been recognized as a national leader in biomedical research. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rise in federal research funding to faculty members in the school's Department of Medicine.

Research grants awarded to the department by the National Institutes of Health totaled $161 million in the 2016 federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an increase of 42 percent from the $114 million awarded in federal FY2015.

In announcing the news to her faculty, Nancy J. Brown, M.D., the Hugh J. Morgan Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department, said, "This growth reflects on the quality of our faculty (you), your creativity and hard work, as well as on the breadth of collaborations across divisions, departments and missions."

Brown noted that the large institutional grants received in July contributed significantly to the dramatic growth in the department's research funding. "Importantly, however, funding for investigator-initiated discovery research also grew significantly," she added

The Department of Medicine is the medical school's largest department, with more than 800 faculty members in 26 divisions and centers. Funding for individual research projects ("R" grants) increased by 12 percent from the previous years, while program "P" awards jumped by 44 percent. The number of citations of Department of Medicine publications has also increased over the last few years from an average of 18.8 citations per paper to 24.3 citations of paper.

"The individual investigator is benefitting from the collaborative environment that makes studios, a repository of successful grants, and internal reviews possible, as well the strength of our core resources. We are seeing the return on a significant institutional investment in career development resources."

The department's FY2016 funding represents 228 unique research grants. Seven large grants awarded in July demonstrate the range and depth of research conducted by Department of Medicine faculty.

Two of the grants illustrate a "longstanding and synergistic relationship" with the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI), said Kevin B. Johnson, M.D., M.S., the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair and chair of the department. They include:

  • A $71.6 million, five-year grant to establish at Vanderbilt a Data and Research Support Center to support the Precision Medicine InitiativeCohort Program, a landmark study of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors affecting the health of a million or more people. Joshua Denny, M.D., professor of Biomedical Informatics and associate professor of Medicine, is the principal investigator.
  • A $14 million, five-year grant to establish a recruitment innovation center to increase recruitment of clinical trial participants. Consuelo Wilkins, M.D., MSCI, associate professor of Medicine, and Paul Harris, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Informatics, are co-principal investigators.

Five other large grants awarded to Department of Medicine faculty in July include:

  • A seven-year, $26.5 million grant to establish a joint Trial Innovation Center (TIC) with Duke University that aims to improve the efficiency ofclinical trials. Gordon Bernard, M.D., the Melinda Owen Bass Professor of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, is co-principal investigator.
  • A five-year, $12 million grant to Vanderbilt and two other institutions to help determine why African-American women die at a higher rate and have more aggressive breast cancer than white women. Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, the Anne Potter Wilson Professor of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, is principal investigator.
  • A four-year, $2.7 million grant to VUMC and Boston University to determine whether the oral "microbiome," bacterial growth in the mouth, influences lung cancer risk. Qiuyin Cai, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine, is co-principal investigator.
  • A five-year, $2.2 million grant to VUMC and Texas A&M to study how mutation or loss of a methyltransferase enzyme results in genomic "instability" and renal cancer. Kimryn Rathmell, M.D., Ph.D., the Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine, is co-principal investigator.
  • A five-year, $1.6 million grant to study the benefits and risks of inhibiting the enzyme PCSK9, a new drug target for lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. QiPing Feng, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Medicine, is principal investigator.

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