The UAB Department of Neurosurgery ranked No. 17 nationally in 2016 with more than $1.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, according to rankings provided by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. This is a more-than-fivefold increase from the department’s 2015 NIH funding. The 2016 funding is comprised of five awards, four of which were newly received at UAB, held by three different faculty members – Corinne Griguer, Ph.D., James M. Markert, M.D., and Ichiro Nakano, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Corinne GriguerDr. Corinne GriguerGriguer is a biochemist focused on malignant glioma, specifically the bioenergetic pathways involved in its development and progression. Griguer’s NIIH funding level of more than $1.2 million ranks in the top-10 percentile of neurosurgery principal investigators nationwide, according to BRIMR data.

“This increase in funding is a direct testament to the diligent work of our research faculty,” said James Markert M.D., professor and chair of the UAB Department of Neurosurgery. “The success rate for NIH grants is only around 20 percent. I am very proud that our faculty are successfully competing for these awards. This speaks to the caliber of the research being done here in Neurosurgery as we strive to find new treatments and therapies for our patients.”

The $1.8 million figure also is only a partial picture of the department’s overall NIH funding. Due to the nature of the rankings, this figure does not include awards the department faculty may participate in as co-investigators or sub-award holders. For instance, Barton Guthrie, M.D., is a co-investigator on a BRAIN Initiative Grant to study new technology that could improve outcomes from deep brain stimulation, an increasingly important treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Frequent collaborator, Harrison Walker, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology, is the primary investigator of the study.

Dr. James MarkertDr. James MarkertThe momentum department faculty have gained in fiscal year 2016, appears to be carrying into 2017. Recently, Markert and G. Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D., were awarded an R01 grant to conduct a Phase I Clinical Trial of an oncolytic herpes virus called M032. The FDA-approved trial will be used to evaluate the safety and tolerability of this improved virus that recruits the patient’s immune system to help fight against malignant gliomas.

“NIH funding is a critical engine for scientific advancement,” Markert said. “During the past 15 years, cancer death rates in the U.S. have dropped by about 1 percent annually, and this can be attributed in larger part to research funded by the NIH. Obviously, there is more work to be done to cure cancer, as nearly 80,000 cases of primary brain tumors are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. That is why our faculty are working tirelessly to explore new treatments and therapies. This increase in NIH funding is a reflection of their dedication to improving patient care.”