UMMC reports record-breaking research funding

Posted on Sep 28 2017 - 7:59am by Jacqueline Knirnschild

The University of Mississippi Medical Center received record research funding this year that could lead to new discoveries in the medical field.

According to a UMMC press release, the center received 316 extramural grants and awards in the 2017 fiscal year, the most in the institution’s history for a single year. The total dollar amount is $65,454,262, which is the fourth highest in the medical center’s history.

“Such extramural grants and awards typically go toward funding individual principal investigators with unique projects,” Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research, said. 

Karen Lambiotte, the health science research editor/writer for UMMC’s Division of Public Affairs, attributes the increase in grants to the strong research ideas that come from the medical center.

“The UMMC reached this new high number because our scientists have great ideas for new research projects, and great ideas get funded,” Lambiotte said. 

Summers said he knows the importance larger donations have in helping advance technology in the medical field.

“Scientists are becoming more sophisticated in our understanding of how biology works, and this requires a complex analysis of physiology and biochemistry,” Summers said. “To achieve this level of detailed analysis requires more expensive technology.”

Specific projects include associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology Jan Michael Williams’ research on the role of obesity and diabetes in kidney disease and assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences, Bernadette Grayson’s research on how spinal cord injuries may alter metabolism.

Lambiotte said that generally, the majority of the grants come from three sources: the government, not-for-profit organizations and the industry itself.

“At UMMC, our largest supporter is the National Institutes of Health, which is part of the federal government,” Lambiotte said.

In 2016, Wayne Wahls of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences wrote an essay called “Send my tax dollars to Mississippi.” The piece highlighted how UMMC is able to turn the research using NIH funds into results.

“Substantial scientific discoveries take more time and effort now,” Lambiotte said. “It used to be that one or two bright minds working together could conduct an experiment or build a theory with the potential to change their field of study.”

For example, Lambiotte said, scientists today may ask, “How does our environment influence gene expression?” or “How common are certain genetic diseases in the population, and are certain groups more susceptible?”

These types of studies require more people with more expertise collecting even more data. Summers said funding for these projects will be carefully managed.

“The expenditure of funding is monitored by our grants accounting office, which requires that these funds go toward the activities and equipment stated in the approved grant application,” Summers said.

Though the majority of these funds will support UMMC’s research enterprise, some funds are also allocated for new equipment and supplies along with human capital, such as salary support and workforce development, the press release stated.

Regarding the future, Lambiotte said UMMC has a few overall research goals.

“One is to double our extramural research funding over the next five years,” Lambiotte said. “The other is to apply for grants from a more diverse set of sources, including non-NIH federal agencies, not-for-profits and industry.”