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UT Southwestern receives $42 million in Recovery Act stimulus funding

DALLAS Nov. 12, 2009 UT Southwestern Medical Center has been awarded more than $42 million to date for basic and patient-oriented research from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the $787 billion stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in February.

UT Southwestern's grants have come from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was allotted $10 billion to distribute through the Recovery Act. Additional grant applications from UT Southwestern are still pending.

The $42 million represents both direct costs funds that go directly to the researcher and indirect costs, which go to UT Southwestern to support institutional infrastructure. The total amount reflects funds received in fiscal 2009; many grants allow a two-year period to spend the funds.

As of early October, UT Southwestern faculty are principal investigators on 105 Recovery Act projects (104 through NIH, one through NSF), and two investigators had received Recovery Act funds by virtue of being subcontractors on grants awarded to other institutions. Dr. Perrie Adams, associate dean for research administration at UT Southwestern, said more grants probably will be awarded in the coming weeks and months.

"Even though the funding period for most of these grants is only two years, the hope is that their results ultimately will contribute significantly to patient care, in terms of new treatments or a better understanding of specific diseases," Dr. Adams said. "This funding also allows investigators to gather data that will then allow them to pursue larger, longer-term grants. In addition, for some of our young investigators, getting their ideas funded at this level starts them on the path toward establishing themselves. It's a major asset for leveraging in order to obtain future funding."

The research grants support a wide range of laboratory and patient-centered studies aimed at improving the nation's health, including projects focusing on cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, autism, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes.

Some examples illustrate the anticipated impact of the grants:

  • Dr. Joseph Hill, chief of cardiology, "Functional Genomics of Complex Vascular Disease," $1,287,252. This grant will help expand research on the mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and includes support for a new, early-career faculty member. "More than 200 genetic associations with cardiovascular disease have been identified. Moving forward, we need to know how this information can be harnessed to predict who will develop heart disease and possibly develop new ways to intervene early in at-risk patients," Dr. Hill said.
  • Dr. Craig Powell, assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry, "Novel Genetic Animal Models of Autism," $549,500. The goal of this project is to understand better the genetic causes of human autism by using genetically engineered animal models of the disease. "This approach can be used to identify novel therapies for patients with autism," Dr. Powell said.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Maher, associate professor of internal medicine and neurology, "Genotype and Metabolic Phenotype in Glioblastoma," $1 million. Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain tumor and is considered one of the deadliest of human cancers. Dr. Maher and her colleagues in the Annette G. Strauss Center in Neuro-Oncology and in the Advanced Imaging Research Center focus on the metabolism of glioblastoma cells as a potential new target. "Our research will dissect the metabolic pathways that are abnormal in glioblastoma in a concerted effort to develop new therapies quickly," Dr. Maher said. "We anticipate that our discoveries will be applicable to other cancers as well."

Some of the Recovery Act grants awarded to UT Southwestern and other institutions fall under special priority categories designated by the NIH.

Grand Opportunities grants

Two UT Southwestern researchers received NIH Grand Opportunities grants, which support high-impact ideas that lend themselves to short-term funding and that might lay the foundation for new fields of investigation. Dr. Ellen Vitetta, director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center, was awarded $1,303,720 for research to develop a new vaccine for the hepatitis C virus, a major cause of liver cancer. Dr. Michael Roth, professor of biochemistry, received $3.75 million for a project that ultimately will produce a large database that researchers can use to design patient-specific, individualized therapies for lung cancer.

Challenge Grants

Ten of UT Southwestern's Recovery Act grants are NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research, a new initiative that focuses on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation or research methods that can benefit from an influx of funds to quickly advance disease-specific areas in significant ways. Dr. Maher's grant falls into this category.

Summer research experience for teachers and students Twelve faculty members received grants to support summer research experiences for students and science educators in UT Southwestern laboratories. Dr. Ralph Mason, professor of radiology, hosted a middle school teacher from Coppell as part of the small-animal imaging research program that he leads. The funding also will support a teacher and a high school student in summer 2010. "We're helping to educate the next generation of budding biomedical scientists," Dr. Mason said.


Contact: Amanda Siegfried
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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