Vol. 12 No. 5 - December, 2009

Research engine

UMass Medical School receives $38.7 million in ARRA funding for medical research

Scientific research might not be the first area of business that comes to mind when you think of the country’s economic recovery, but 80 UMass Medical School investigators have proven that research is indeed a vital sector of the local economy by successfully applying for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants from the National Institutes of Health. Analysis of UMass Medical School’s local economic impact conducted by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute found that every dollar invested in medical research yielded at least twice that amount in growth in payrolls, supply purchases and support staff.

Recent analysis of UMass Medical School’s local economic impact found

that every dollar invested in medical research yielded at least twice that amount in growth in payrolls, supply purchases and support staff.

  • Robert Brown, MD, DPhil, chair and professor of neurology, received $3.6 million to develop a platform for the full genome sequencing that will identify rare genetic variants that underlie both sporadic and familial forms of ALS.
  • Robert Finberg, MD, the Richard M. Haidack Professor of Medicine and chair and professor of medicine and professor of molecular genetics & microbiology, received $3.6 million to study innate immune responses associated with the herpes simplex virus.
  • Celia Schiffer, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, received $600,000 to develop anti-viral drugs for HIV treatment that are less susceptible to drug-resistant strains of the disease.
  • Victor Ambros, PhD, the Silverman Chair in Natural Sciences and professor of molecular medicine, was awarded $771,000 to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the developmental regulation of microRNA expression in C. elegans.
  • Stephenie Lemon, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, received $1.3 million to determine the effectiveness of a worksite intervention program, called Step Ahead, aimed at reducing weight gain compared to a self-directed, print-materials only control group.
  • Edward Boyer, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, received $1 million to use innovative mobile technology and biosensors to detect stressors and deliver effective and timely cognitive behavioral interventions for patients suffering posttraumatic stress or substance abuse.
  • Maryann Davis, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, received $800,000 to develop prevention interventions and service delivery models for young adults experiencing severe mental illnesses, leading to increased treatment retention.

UMass Medical School has received a total of $38.7 million in funding from the NIH’s ARRA-backed program since it was launched last summer. Designed to help stimulate the US economy through the support and advancement of scientific research, the program sought to follow the spirit of the Recovery Act legislation by funding efforts that will stimulate the economy, create or retain jobs and have the potential for making scientific progress in two years. Clinical, translational and basic science projects awarded ARRA funds at UMass Medical School range in scope from identification of genes responsible for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to improving mental health treatment retention for young adults.

“Because these grants are awarded through a peer review process, the large number of awards received by UMass Medical School shows the high-quality of research being pursued,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “It also recognizes the significant role of scientific research in stimulating our local and state economy.”

More than 12,000 ARRA grants have been awarded nationally, with Massachusetts capturing a total of 1,225 grants. To receive funds, scientists needed to demonstrate that their research would focus on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation, or research methods. Selected projects also needed to demonstrate that they would benefit from an influx of funds to quickly advance the area in significant ways and the potential for a high impact in biomedical or behavioral science and/or public health.

At right is a sampling of UMMS projects that received ARRA funding from the NIH. For a full list, visit http://report.nih.gov/recovery/arragrants.cfm.