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Record research funding flowing into UNM Health Sciences Center

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A recent surge in research funding could mean more than 100 jobs within the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center — even if it cannot cure the school’s overall budget ills.

The HSC secured a record $203 million in research funds in the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to UNM. That tops its previous best, last year’s $165 million, by more than 20 percent.

The money will support a range of research activities, including efforts inside the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center and the school’s Clinical & Translational Science Center. Newly received awards include money to study the health effects of uranium and arsenic exposure on the Navajo Nation; research into new blood and clinical tests that can predict the course of a melanoma patient’s disease; and other projects related to Hepatitis C and HPV.

Research funding represents about 10 percent of the HSC’s $2 billion budget. The money has specific purposes and does not help fill UNM’s more general budget void created by state funding cuts and student population declines.

“It’s completely earmarked, and the dollars aren’t fungible,” said Dr. Richard Larson, executive vice chancellor at HSC and vice chancellor of research. “…But it is a significant economic driver.”

The money fans out across thousands of UNM staff members but should mean at least 100 additional positions, Larson said. While UNM obtained the money in fiscal year 2017, it will spend much of it in the year that began July 1.

More than half the funding comes from federal agencies. The National Institutes of Health remains the largest source, but Larson said UNM has seen an increasing amount from other federal agencies. Private entities, like pharmaceutical companies, and non-profits, also support UNM’s efforts.

Almost all comes from outside of New Mexico.

“The dollars that are brought in not only improve health care and allow the state-of-the-art technology to be available to patients in New Mexico, but it really is a job creator as well,” Larson said.