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UNM Health Sciences Center rakes in research dollars

LARSON: "We've been very fortunate"

LARSON: “We’ve been very fortunate”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Research funding at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center rose last year, bucking a trend hitting universities nationwide.

For the 12 months that ended June 30, UNM’s Health Sciences Center landed a record $161 million in research grant and contract funding from foundations and federal and private industry sources, a $4.7 million increase over the previous fiscal year.

The biggest chunk of the money came from the renewal of the five-year $23 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the federal National Institutes of Health, which recognizes, among other things, the Health Sciences Center’s success in medical and health care research, and developing new biotechnology in many areas, said Dr. Richard Larson, executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research at the Health Sciences Center.

He said the Health Sciences Center has seen research funding grow annually over the past 10 years and the NIH award will make the institution eligible for roughly $15 million in additional funding each year.

“We’ve been very fortunate – that’s in contrast to most universities that have seen a flat to decline (in research funding) over the same period of time,” Larson said.

A 2013 analysis published by the magazine Issues in Science and Technology attributed the decline to the increase in the number of institutions seeking research dollars in recent years. It said the number of research grant applications the NIH received doubled from 31,000 in 1997 to 62,000 in 2011.

“We are competing against the most prestigious and big name universities,” Larson said.

The Health Sciences Center, the umbrella organization for the UNM Cancer Center, also recently received another prestigious award as a National Center Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center. The National Cancer Center Institute is a division of the National Institutes of Health.

The Health Sciences Center is now one of only 29 institutions nationwide that has obtained both awards.