Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Research at UC pulls in $309M

Funding up 19% from last year's

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Greater Cincinnati economy - and the future health of its residents - got a $49 million boost in the past year from a nearly 19 percent jump in research funding for the University of Cincinnati.

UC officials reported Tuesday that funding grew from $260 million in the year ended June 2002 to $309 million through June 2003.

During the recently tough economic times, hundreds of millions of dollars coming to one of the city's largest employers adds up to welcome news. But the ultimate impact goes much further than dollar signs.

More than 80 percent of the grants are paying for health-related work at the new Genomics Research Institute in Reading, at the curvy-walled Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, at research towers attached to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and at other medical laboratories scattered about UC's campus.

Some of the biggest grants are paying for stroke research ($28.5 million over five years) and lung cancer ($12.9 million over five years). Both diseases rank among the Tristate's top causes of death.

More than 40 researchers won grants exceeding $1 million each. Their projects range from seeking ways to block cancer cell growth, to improving surgical techniques, even to understanding the causes of male sexual dysfunction.

UC also collected $54.6 million in research funding for non-medical projects.

One scientist is working on non-polluting methods to convert crude oil or natural gas into various plastics. Another professor has explored how Cincinnati residents were arguing about using the Bible in public education as far back as 1869.

"University of Cincinnati research really impacts people. It improves health, expands the economy and helps train new researchers and care-givers," said Dr. Jane Henney, UC's new senior vice president and provost for health affairs. "As our research enterprise grows, the overall economy of the region will grow as well."

Most of the money comes from the National Institutes of Health. Other sources include the Defense Department, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, state government, corporate grants and charities such as the American Cancer Society.

Since 1996, overall research funding has leaped 130 percent, from $134 million to $309 million. Officials point to two big factors.

First, Children's Hospital, which is run independently but is closely affiliated with UC, has risen in national stature. In the past decade, NIH research funding for Children's has grown eight-fold from about $8 million in fiscal 1993 to $72 million in fiscal 2003. The hospital now ranks third in funding for pediatric centers nationwide.

"That's the most rapid increase of any pediatric program in the nation," said Dr. Thomas Boat, director of the Children's Hospital Research Foundation.

Meanwhile, the UC College of Medicine enjoyed its biggest single-year increase in grant funding, accounting for $31 million of the $49 million increase, according to Dr. William Martin, dean of the medical school.

Eventually, much of this research will find its way to people in improved medical care, a cleaner environment, better understanding of our culture and a variety of marketable products.

In the past year, UC experts disclosed 86 inventions, filed for 25 patents and were awarded nine patents. The patents included:

• A method of degrading organic compounds developed by UC and Procter & Gamble scientists. While P&G could use the method to make a better laundry detergent, UC is shopping the technology as a way to neutralize chemical warfare agents.

• Three patents related to cardiac care issued to CardioEnergetics, a company recently spun off from UC.

• Another patent related to genetics research issued to a UC researcher and scientists with Genaissance Pharmaceuticals. The technology could be used to determine a person's genetic predisposition to heart disease and to decide which medicines will help.

While the new patents come from projects that were funded several years ago, the increased amount of new research grants raise hopes that even more products that benefit people will be coming out of UC in the years to come.

Where UC gets grants

National Institutes of Health 59%
U.S. Dept. of Education 12%
State of Ohio7%
Non-profit agencies 5%
Dept. of Defense 4%
National Science Foundation4%
U.S. EPA 2%
All other 7%
Source: University of Cincinnati


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