April 10, 2024

Heersink School of Medicine receives over $610 million in research funding for 2023

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2023NIHrankingThe University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine saw great success in acquiring research funding in 2023, making significant strides in securing resources to advance human health through biomedical discovery.

Multiple Departments Rank in Top 20 in NIH Funding

According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, the Heersink School of Medicine received nearly $274 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2023. This is an increase of 6.2% and $17 million since 2019, and the school’s highest NIH funding total ever achieved. The school ranked 27th among institutions overall and 12th among public universities in the United States.

Eleven departments in the Heersink School of Medicine ranked in the top 20 in NIH research funding:

  • Department of Pathology – 10th
  • Department of Biomedical Engineering – 10th
  • Department of Microbiology – 12th
  • Department of Dermatology – 14th
  • Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology – 15th
  • Department of Urology – 15th
  • Department of Pediatrics – 16th
  • Department of Anesthesiology – 17th
  • Department of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology – 19th
  • Department of Medicine – 20th
  • Department of Neurosurgery – 20th

"I am immensely proud of our faculty and researchers for their outstanding achievements in securing over $273 million in NIH research funding in 2023,” said Anupam Agarwal, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the Heersink School of Medicine. “This accomplishment not only solidifies our position as a leader in biomedical research but also underscores our commitment to advancing health and healing. With 11 departments ranking in the top 20, we continue to demonstrate our excellence across disciplines. We remain dedicated to fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration as we strive to tackle the most pressing challenges in medicine and health care."

Among the school’s many impressive NIH awards in 2023, the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) awarded $29 million to the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) coordinating center to oversee study activities for the next 10 years. CARDIA will examine factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and provide a better understanding of the natural history of cardiovascular disease over the course of an adult life.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) awarded $14.0 million to Deep South KUH Premier Research and Inter-Disciplinary Method Education (PRIME), which will establish a fully integrated, interdisciplinary network of pre- and post-doctoral trainees in kidney, urology, and non-malignant hematology (KUH) research across the Deep South. The effort aims to better prepare translational scientists and clinician-scientists to become future drivers of scientific breakthroughs in KUH research.

The UAB-UCSD O’Brien Center for Acute Kidney Injury Research joined the newly formed O’Brien Kidney Consortium as one of its seven National Resource Centers (NRCs). The $4.4 million U54 grant from the NIDDK recognizes the center’s 15-year legacy of exceptional research in acute kidney injury, a health issue that affects more than 13 million people in the U.S. In addition, UAB investigators received a $5.8 million U24 award to streamline the efforts of the seven NRCs in the O’Brien Kidney Consortium.

Funding for the UAB Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) was renewed with an award of $9.0 million over four years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The center will identify new research opportunities and priorities that align with existing CFAR programs and foster new research programs.

The National Cancer Institute awarded the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB and the UAB Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center (MHERC) $9.6 million over five years to participate in its Persistent Poverty Initiative. UAB was one of five institutions selected to join the NIH’s first major program to address how structural and institutional factors of persistent poverty relate to cancer. UAB will establish the Center for Cancer Control in Persistent Poverty Areas to study ways to improve prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in the center’s designated areas.

Highlighting Non-NIH Awards

In 2023, non-NIH research funding for the Heersink School of Medicine totaled nearly $338 million, bringing the school’s NIH and non-NIH funding to $611 million. This substantial research funding not only provides the opportunity to further combat health disparities and chronic diseases affecting various groups of people, it also provides a positive economic impact to our city and state.

“In the Heersink School of Medicine, we seek to diversify our research portfolio by successfully competing for funding outside of the NIH,” said Etty (Tika) Benveniste, Ph.D., senior vice dean in the Heersink School of Medicine. “Our faculty have been exceptionally successful in this regard, with funding from the Department of Defense (DoD), Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the American Heart Association and others funding agencies. This funding complements our NIH portfolio and provides the resources to achieve research excellence that bears on the health and well-being of the citizens of Alabama and beyond."

Among the many impressive non-NIH awards in 2023, a $25.0 million award from the DoD provided extended funding for the Neurofibromatosis Clinical Trials Consortium (NFCTC). The new 10-year award comes from the DoD through the Neurofibromatosis Research Program, one of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. Bruce Korf, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean of Genomics and chief genomics officer at the Heersink School of Medicine, is the principal investigator of the NFCTC and leads the NFCTC Operations Center at UAB.

The PCORI awarded $13.9 million to the Reducing Future Fractures and Improving Outcomes of Fragility Fracture (RESTORE) study. The initiative aims to compare the effectiveness of two post-fracture care pathways, Augmented-FLS and Enhanced Usual Care, in order to reduce the chance of future fractures and improve outcomes important to patients.

Vikas Dudeja, M.D., director of the Division of Surgical Oncology (Surgery), was awarded $6.5 million over three years from the DoD to evaluate a new therapy, pirfenidone, for recurrent acute pancreatitis in a clinical trial. Acute pancreatitis is a major cause of health care cost in the U.S. Patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis are at high risk of death, decreased quality of life, and high risk of progression to chronic pancreatitis, a disease characterized by chronic pain, lack of digestive enzymes, malnutrition, diabetes, and increased risk of cancer.

UAB’s successful efforts in acquiring research funding for 2023 will serve as a catalyst for future work to be performed by its researchers in addressing multiple health issues not only domestically, but also from a global perspective.