UCSF Researchers Begin to Receive NIH Stimulus Funds

By Robin Hindery

UCSF faculty researchers have received approximately $8.7 million in economic stimulus-funded grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the past several months, with hundreds of additional proposals still under consideration.

The $787 billion economic stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17. It allocates $10.4 billion to the NIH to be spent entirely over the next two years.

The bulk of the money — more than $8 billion — will go toward what the NIH is best known for: financing research. The rest will pay for construction and renovation projects at NIH-funded research institutions.

In early March, UCSF Chancellor Mike Bishop, MD, formed an economic stimulus response team consisting of seven prominent UCSF faculty and administrators, and charged the group with communicating funding opportunities to the campus community and working to identify and coordinate funding needs among the University’s many departments. This group has been supported by an implementation team that includes staff from several departments who have provided an unprecedented level of cross-campus coordination.

This cross-campus cooperation has since resulted in the launch of an economic stimulus website to solicit ideas and provide updates from the NIH as they become available.

The first ARRA funding proposal was submitted to the Contracts and Grants Division of the UCSF Office of Sponsored Research on March 16, said the division’s interim director, Erik Lium, PhD. By June 1, an additional 832 proposals had been submitted for review, he said.

As of June 9, the NIH had announced 37 ARRA-funded awards to UCSF researchers, totaling $8.7 million, Lium said.

The most recent of those grants include:

  • More than $408,000 to Maria Almira Correia, PhD, UCSF professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, to explore the molecular mechanisms of hepatic cytochromes P450 – enzymes that help the body break down drugs, toxins and other compounds and that may significantly influence how therapeutic drugs work.
  • More than $386,000 to Jeanette Hyer, PhD, UCSF assistant adjunct professor of neurological surgery, to provide a better basic understanding of early eye development, particularly of the anterior portion of the eye, and to link genetic information with morphological processes.
  • More than $378,000 to Ching Chung Wang, PhD, UCSF professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry, to learn more about the unique pattern of cell division in the parasitic organisms that cause sleeping sickness, and to use that knowledge to develop a potential target for anti-sleeping sickness chemotherapy.
  • Nearly $364,000 to David Sretavan, MD, PhD, UCSF professor of ophthalmology and physiology, to study disease mechanisms in glaucoma, a major cause of irreversible blindness.
  • Nearly $343,000 to Judith Hellman, MD, a critical care anesthesiologist at UCSF Medical Center, to examine the effects of Toll-like receptor 2 — a protein that plays a key role in the immune system — on endothelial dysfunction, blood clotting disturbances and vascular leakage.
  • More than $193,000 to Benjamin Cheyette, MD, PhD, UCSF assistant professor of psychiatry, to investigate a gene mutation discovered in a family with autism and how it leads biologically to the behavioral disorder.
  • More than $77,000 to Kamran Atabai, MD, UCSF assistant adjunct professor of medicine, to study the glycoprotein MFG-E8 — a molecule involved in the body’s immune response — and its role in regulating asthma severity.

UCSF has consistently ranked among the country’s top recipients of NIH grants and awards. In 2008, it was the second-largest funding recipient — up from third place the previous year — with more than $444 million in research and training grants, fellowships and other awards.

The UCSF School of Dentistry, School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy all received the greatest total NIH dollars in their respective fields in 2008, while the UCSF School of Medicine ranked second nationally.

Related Links:

UCSF Economic Stimulus Website

UCSF Rises to Second Among Top Universities in NIH Funding
UCSF News Release, April 13, 2009

UCSF Team to Devise Strategy for Going After NIH Stimulus Funds
UCSF Today, March 4, 2009