UCSF Remains Top Public Recipient of NIH Funding for 13th Straight Year

By Jason Alvarez

In 2019, for the 13th year in a row, UCSF claimed the top spot among public institutions in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 2019 also marked the ninth straight year that the university ranked second overall in NIH funding among all academic institutions nationwide.

The University was awarded nearly 1,300 NIH grants and contracts, amounting to more than $684.4 million in funding – a nearly 5.7 percent jump over the 2018 total and a new record for NIH funding to a public university.

In 2018, UCSF was the first public university to surpass the $600 million mark, a feat that was repeated in 2019. It remains the only public university, and one of only two institutions nationwide, to ever receive more than $600 million in NIH funding in a single fiscal year.

Top Recipients of NIH Funding, 2019

  1. Johns Hopkins University: $763,565,791
  2. UC San Francisco: $684,499,764
  3. University of Michigan: $591,487,816
  4. University of Pennsylvania: $582,337,151
  5. Duke University: $571,409,121
  6. University of Pittsburgh: $546,388,511
  7. University of Washington: $526,962,825
  8. Stanford University: $526,216,444
  9. Washington University $523,835,750
  10. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: $509,869,004

NIH funding has been behind many of the biggest breakthroughs that UCSF scientists have made over the decades, and it continues to drive transformative science conducted by researchers and trainees in UCSF’s four professional schools – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy – and in the Graduate Division, which awards doctoral degrees in a myriad of biomedical research disciplines.

In 2019, NIH-funded UCSF scientists, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students worked together to identify the virus that causes a polio-like illness that causes paralysis in children; to shed new light on the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease; to explore millions of potential new drug therapies through “virtual pharmacology”; and to build the first feedback circuits inside cells, opening the door to completely new forms of therapy.

“In the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic, UCSF’s research on human disease has never been more important or more relevant,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “The NIH funding our researchers have been awarded is enabling them to grapple with issues ranging from infectious disease to drug discovery to best practices in nursing. This essential funding gives them the tools they need to expand our knowledge and find new treatments for a range of diseases and health problems affecting people all around the world.”

Schools Claim Top Spots, New Milestones in Rankings

For the UCSF School of Pharmacy, 2019 was a milestone year. With more than $25.1 million in NIH funding, the school claimed the top spot among pharmacy schools nationwide for the 40th consecutive year.

Meanwhile, the School of Medicine remained first in the nation for the eighth straight year, with more than $618 million in NIH funding, an increase of $40 million over 2018 totals. The School of Dentistry, which received nearly $24 million, was ranked second nationwide in NIH funding to dental schools. And the School of Nursing ranked third nationally, with more than $10 million in NIH funding, an increase of $1.2 million over 2018.

UCSF was also one of the top recipients of NIH training grants, with nearly $27 million in funding for the graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other trainees in the Graduate Division’s 19 PhD programs and 12 master’s and certificate programs.

Funding provided by NIH training grants and UCSF’s Discovery Fellows Program helps ensure that all first- and second-year students pursuing doctorates in the basic and biomedical sciences at UCSF receive full financial support.

“Our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows rely on NIH support to do their invaluable work in UCSF laboratories each day,” said Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, Graduate Division dean and vice chancellor for Student Academic Affairs. “This funding is the irreplaceable bridge to their careers as independent scientists, ensuring a bright future for biomedical research in the U.S.”

Benefits to Local and State Economies

NIH funding also plays an important part in ensuring that UCSF remains a major driver of the regional economy.

According to the most recent budget report, UCSF received 21 percent – more than $1.46 billion – of its annual revenue from grants and contracts, including those awarded by the NIH. These funds help UCSF labs and clinics purchase essential products and services and employ research and administrative staff, which is part of the reason that UCSF is the second-largest employer in San Francisco and fourth-largest in the Bay Area.

Furthermore, these funds help ensure that UCSF’s economic reach extends beyond the confines of campus. More than 185 startup companies were spawned or spun off from UCSF labs, many of which received NIH backing.

NIH funding is also, at least in part, behind many of the more than 1,440 patents and 1,988 inventions that UCSF has produced and are still in active use to this day. The revenue that these discoveries generate accounts for 20 percent of royalty income within the UC system.

“UCSF’s deep and broad research on the biology of human disease and our search for new treatments has never been more important than it is today,” said Lindsey Criswell, MD, MPH, DSc, vice chancellor for research at UCSF. “NIH funding across all four of our top-ranked schools is the foundation for all we do.”

School of Medicine

1. UC San Francisco: $618,195,571
2. Johns Hopkins University: $518,723,479
3. University of Pennsylvania: $493,813,288
4. Washington University: $485,771,160
5. Stanford University: $468,381,417

School of Nursing

1. University of Pennsylvania: $11,331,260
2. University of Washington:  $10,991,634
3. UC San Francisco: $10,371,331
4. Columbia University: $9,711,419
5. Emory University: $9,577,147

School of Pharmacy

1. UC San Francisco: $25,104,305
2: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: $19,280,018
3. University of Florida: $19,264,390
4. University of Washington: $13,750,365
5. University of Minnesota: $11,037,371

School of Dentistry

1. University of Michigan: $28,181,306 
2. UC San Francisco: $23,945,322 
3. University of Pennsylvania: $11,820,436 
4. New York University: $9,972,088 
5. University of Florida: $9,400,236 

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