February 12, 2024

UAB Pathology Lands Top Ten in Blue Ridge Rankings for NIH Funding

Written by

The UAB Department of Pathology, in the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, is ranked number 10 for the most funds awarded to a United States pathology department by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2023. According to a list by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, which annually compiles NIH funding totals received by academic institutions, UAB Pathology exceeded $22 million in NIH funding for the fiscal year. The department secured 12 additional R01 grants and jumped 11 spots in a single year from 2022 when it secured $13 million in new funding.

“The UAB Department of Pathology has excelled in its research efforts with their faculty engaged in scholarly and high impact investigation, and the result is an impressive number of grants funded across a vast spectrum of research topics,” says Anupam Agarwal, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean of the Heersink School of Medicine. “UAB Pathology faculty, leadership, and the administrative team supporting them are to be congratulated for their success in such innovative and collaborative research in crucial topics in medicine impacting our area, for the next several years.”

“Our department includes a dedicated team of research faculty who excel in scientific innovation in their respective specialties, which are broad ranging,” says Gene Siegal, M.D., Ph.D., Robert M. Mowry Endowed Professor and Interim Chair, UAB Pathology. “It is gratifying to see the NIH acknowledge that expertise with this funding support. We are excited by the cross-disciplinary, collaborative research these grants support, allowing for discoveries that will enhance our patients’ lives.”

The Research Project Grant (R01) is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by the NIH, supporting, “health-related research and development, based on the mission of the NIH,” according to the agency.

UAB Pathology research faculty secured more than $30 million in R01-funded projects alone for the department over the next five years, with one of our faculty ranking among the top 25 funded principal investigators in the country for the year: Sixto Leal, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. (#24), Division Director, Laboratory Medicine, with $3.4 million; and three additional faculty members in the top 100: Girish Melkani, Ph.D. (#69), Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology; Casey Weaver, M.D. (#81), Dr. Leonard H. Robinson Endowed Chair, Anatomic Pathology; and Shu Chen, Ph.D. (#93), Ona Faye-Petersen Endowed Professor, Neuropathology.

“The enormous success of our faculty is a true testament to their resilience and passion for research, even during challenging times,” says Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., Endowed Professor in Experimental Cancer Therapeutic and Interim Vice Chair for Research, UAB Pathology. “It is this collective commitment to research alongside the dedicated clinical mission of the department that enables us consistent national recognition as one of the premiere pathology departments in the country.”

For some faculty the R01 awards are their first, while others are seasoned researchers who host several of these grants at a time. The content areas they span is vast: From Alzheimer’s disease to breast cancer, liver disease and heart failure, to the rare ZTTK Syndrome, secondary mold infections in COVID patients, and T regs and redox signaling, and more.

Erin White, CRA, CRFA, Director of Financial Research, and her team have been instrumental in supporting the submission of these grant proposals, ushering faculty through the process from start to fruition. In fall of 2022, the department centralized its pre-award process, which she says, “played a role in the department’s increased funding for FY2023.”

“Faculty have the opportunity to work with experienced grant administrators who understand and value the importance of research, not only for Pathology but for UAB,” White says. “Centralizing the pre-award process removes the unavoidable administrative burden from the faculty and allows my team to effectively manage this for them, allowing for that all-important time to focus writing their research.”

“The work of this robust research team of faculty and administrative support will continue to enhance UAB Pathology’s national reputation as a department of research excellence,” says Cristina Magi-Galluzzi, M.D., Ph.D., C. Bruce Alexander Endowed Professor and incoming chair. “We are proud of the intense work done to secure this support and grow our research enterprise and look forward to seeing where our department takes its science in the coming years.”