UCSF Is Top Public Recipient of NIH Funds, Pushing Unbroken Streak

By Jason Alvarez

UC San Francisco was the top public recipient of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2018, the 12th year in a row that UCSF claimed the top spot among public institutions, and the eighth straight year in which the University ranked second overall among institutions nationwide.

The highly competitive funds, which represent awards and contracts to the UCSF schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy, as well as the Graduate Division, are aimed at supporting UCSF scientists in their efforts to understand the causes of, and potential treatments for, diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as training the next generation of researchers.


UCSF set new records for the number of awards received and amount of funding secured, a reflection of the quality and ever-expanding scope of the University’s research, education and clinical programs.

UCSF received 1,309 competitive grants and contracts totaling more than $647.8 million – a 9.1 percent increase over 2017 and the largest single-year surge in UCSF’s NIH funding in nearly a decade. UCSF was the only public institution – and one of only two institutions nationwide – to receive more than $600 million from the NIH, making 2018 the first year in which UCSF surpassed the $600 million mark.

“NIH funding fuels UCSF’s ability to pursue transformative research, which aims to enhance our understanding of human health, shed light on diseases as varied as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, and address health inequities in our local communities and beyond,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “These funds play a key role in enabling our students, faculty and staff to pursue curiosity driven research in pursuit of new knowledge, as well as the application of these discoveries to individual patients and broader populations.”

UCSF Schools Maintain, Reclaim Top Spots in NIH Rankings

The UCSF schools of Medicine and Pharmacy were ranked first in the nation in NIH funding for the seventh and 39th consecutive years, respectively. Funding for the School of Medicine increased by $50 million, coming in at $577.7 million for 2018. Meanwhile, the School of Pharmacy received $28.9 million from the NIH, extending its nearly four-decade, uninterrupted run as the nation’s top-funded pharmacy school.

The School of Dentistry received nearly $24.4 million and reclaimed the top spot after briefly falling to number two in the rankings in 2017. Meanwhile, the School of Nursing remained the top-ranked public school in the field for the 16th year in a row, with $9.1 million in NIH funding.

UCSF was also ranked among the top five institutions nationally in NIH training grants for the 10th consecutive year, receiving $27.2 million to support graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other trainees in the Graduate Division’s 19 PhD programs and 13 master’s and certificate programs. In tandem with funding from the UCSF Discovery Fellows Program, NIH grants are able to provide full financial support for all first- and second-year doctoral students in the basic and biomedical sciences at UCSF.

“Federal funding provides the support that helps UCSF transform today’s early career researchers into the leading scientists of tomorrow,” said Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, graduate division dean and vice chancellor for student academic affairs. “Our graduate students and postdocs are the ones who drive the University’s nationally ranked research efforts. NIH support serves as the springboard that helps these trainees launch their independent research careers.”

Local Economy Benefits from UCSF Enterprise

Grants and contracts, including those from the NIH, accounted for more than $1.43 billion, or 21 percent, of UCSF’s total revenue for 2017-18. These funds, which help support UCSF’s research, education and health care enterprises, also contribute to the local economy.

As the second-largest employer in San Francisco and fourth-largest in the Bay Area, UCSF remains an engine of regional economic growth, generating more than $8.9 billion for the local economy by creating new jobs, launching startups and spinoffs that hire and spend locally, and providing essential health services to the Bay Area and beyond.

The local economy also benefits from NIH funding, which is used to purchase products and services used in UCSF labs and clinics, to employ research and administrative staff, and to launch new technologies and industries that extend and expand the scope of UCSF’s economic reach.

“NIH funding plays a central role in furthering UCSF’s mission of advancing health worldwide,” said Lindsey Criswell, MD, MPH, DSc, vice chancellor for research at UCSF. “As a public institution, UCSF is dedicated to serving the wider world through our research, education and clinical enterprises. Our continued success depends in large part on our ability to secure federal research funding both now and well into the future.”

Annual rankings of NIH funding are compiled by the independent Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research based on the most current government data.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, transitional and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.