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Vital Signs

DMS research income tops $160 million in FY10

By Matthew C. Wiencke

So-called bench research—basic, laboratory- based biomedical research—rose 33% at DMS from FY09 to FY10.

Funding for scientific research in the U.S. most likely will be very tight in coming years. But at least this past fiscal year, Dartmouth Medical School did very well in bringing in grant and contract income.

Awards: Thanks mainly to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), awards to DMS in fiscal year 2010 shot up 39% over the previous fiscal year. Dartmouth Medical School researchers brought in $160.2 million in FY10, compared to $115.6 million in FY09.

The amount awarded for bench research (as opposed to funding for clinical trials, equipment, construction, or other purposes) was up 33% over FY09 ($114.8 million, compared to $86.1 million).

And nearly all departments at DMS did well in FY10. The Department of Surgery, for example, brought in more than $12 million, thanks in good measure to an ARRA-funded construction grant to build an Advanced Surgical Center at DHMC; the facility will be used largely for surgery-related research.

Other departments that benefited considerably from ARRA were Orthopaedics, Pathology, and Pediatrics.

Dollars: In future years, however, not only will the stream of ARRA funding eventually dry up, but there's a good likelihood that cost-cutting by Congress will result at least in stagnation and perhaps in a decline in the dollars available from federal sources—including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is a major source of funding for research at DMS.

A further change in the research funding environment is that the NIH grant process has recently been modified. Grant applications now have a shorter format—with a limit of 12 pages instead of the previous 25, so researchers have had to learn how to explain their projects more concisely. And there's a new scoring system, too, one that stresses innovation "a lot more," according to Jennifer Friend, DMS's director of research support services.

Furthermore, if a researcher's grant was not funded, it used to be possible to submit up to two amended proposals to the NIH; now just one is allowed.

Variables: All of those changes, points out Friend, amount to "a huge number of new variables. . . . It's a new game."

Federal funding "supports scientific discovery, but also supports jobs."

Lung: But DMS faculty members seem to be adapting well to the "new game." Dr. Bruce Stanton, for example, a pulmonary physiologist, is the principal investigator for three major grants. One is aimed at increasing interconnectivity and internet access among research institutions in northern New England to enable them to better study lung disease; most of these funds went toward hardware. Dartmouth's Lung Biology Center, which Stanton directs, has also "done very well," he says. That effort recently received a four-year renewal grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

"We're very pleased with our funding stream," Stanton says. "I think part of the reason is that we . . . do team science and that seems to be the future of successful funding . . . to collaborate, interact, and do team science that has a translational and clinical component."

Jobs: Dr. Duane Compton, a biochemist and DMS's new senior associate dean for research, brought in two "supplement" grants funded through ARRA. One enabled him to hire another researcher in his lab, and the other was a training grant supporting two new Ph.D. students. Compton says this is an "incredibly important" point—the fact that federal funding for science "supports scientific discovery, but also supports jobs . . . generates jobs."

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