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Stanford Report, April 15, 1998

Stanford's NIH funding rises 11.4%: 4/15/98

Stanford's NIH funding rose 11.4 percent in 1997

BY RUTHANN RICHTER

The National Institutes of Health increased its funding to the School of Medicine by 11.4 percent in 1997, maintaining Stanford's position as the seventh-largest NIH award recipient among medical schools in the nation, according to federal government figures.

The school received a total of $144.9 million in NIH awards during the federal fiscal year of 1997, including $131 million in research awards and $8.6 million in training grants. Among the 14 medical schools receiving the most NIH funding, Stanford had the second-highest increase in total awards and the second-highest increase (10 percent) in research awards from the previous year. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, which has maintained the top ranking in recent years, led the pack in terms of total awards, with $210 million in funding, a 3.1 increase over 1996.

Stanford's success in obtaining NIH awards "is a direct reflection of the quality of our faculty," said Dr. Edward Holmes, senior associate dean for research and vice president for translational medicine and clinical research. "Individual investigators write these proposals, and I think it speaks to the quality of the science they're conducting and the way they're viewed by their peers as investigators, as these proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed."

Holmes said Stanford has a considerably smaller faculty than many of the other top-ranked medical schools on the NIH list. On average, individual investigators at Stanford received an NIH award of $323,521 in fiscal 1997, while the average award to investigators generally at all U.S. medical schools that year was $261,974, according to NIH figures.

"So I believe Stanford did better than seventh," Holmes said. "I think it underestimates our research productivity if we measure it in total dollars alone."

In recent years, NIH's extramural funding budget has grown slightly, but the number of investigators competing for grants has also grown, said Michael Hindery, the school's senior associate dean for finance and administration. The Clinton administration has proposed doubling the NIH budget within the next five years, but that proposal has yet to receive congressional approval. In the meantime, the process of obtaining grants remains highly competitive, Hindery said.

"It is an era of increasing competition for those dollars, and the fact that our faculty are so successful reflects the quality of our people," he said. "We have outstanding faculty who can compete for those dollars."

In California, the financial pressures of managed care have also affected NIH grant awards as clinical researchers at academic medical centers have had less time to conduct research and less seed money to initiate research projects, according to a study published last July in the Journal of the American Medical Association. As a result, academic medical centers in markets heavily penetrated by managed care, such as those in California, have shown slower growth in NIH research funding since 1990, according to the study, which was conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Stanford, however, has maintained a strong research program in spite of this, Holmes said. "Even in a challenged market, such as we live in, the Stanford faculty were able to increase their NIH awards by 11 percent," he said. "Among the top-ranked schools in California, Stanford grew considerably faster than anyone else."

Stanford ranked second, after UCSF, in total NIH awards among medical schools in California. UCSF received a total of $180.2 million in NIH funding in 1997, an increase of 0.39 percent over the previous year.

Five of Stanford's clinical departments ­ dermatology, gyn/ob, pathology, psychiatry and radiology ­ ranked in the top 10 nationally for NIH awards, compared with their counterpart departments at other schools, according to NIH figures. Also ranking in the top 10 compared with their counterparts nationally were four of Stanford's basic science departments ­ biochemistry, biology, genetics and anatomy (part of developmental biology at Stanford). SR