The University announced this month that the Medical School received $368.7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health during the 2010 fiscal year, signifying the largest amount of NIH grants secured by the school.

The University’s Medical School is ranked ninth on the list of national institutions that receive NIH funding, according to a Feb. 4 University of Michigan Health System press release. The NIH funding — which came from 866 separate grants — makes up nearly 77 percent of the $481.8 million in total funding brought in by Medical School faculty this year.

“Our success at securing these awards reflects the creativity, expertise and talent our researchers have been able to focus on the myriad health related problems facing our nation, and the potential impact of their ideas on medical care and scientific understanding of human disease,” Medical School Dean James Woolliscroft wrote in the press release.

In an e-mail interview, Steven Kunkel, senior associate dean of research for the Medical School, wrote that the University’s NIH funding increased from fiscal years 2009 to 2010. He said the boost in funding could be partially attributed to more NIH sponsorship of grants to fund state-of-the-art hospital equipment. Six separate grants were obtained to fund more than $3 million worth of equipment, he wrote.

The process of acquiring a NIH grant, which researchers across the country compete for, begins with an application that explains a project’s potential outcome as well as specific financial and resource needs, according to Kunkel. Peer committees at the NIH then review submitted application packets.

“The NIH is interested in funding priorities and sponsoring specific scientific areas, as well as opening opportunities to foster creative science,” Kunkel wrote. “Our faculty spends months putting together a response to one of these opportunities.”

Among the areas in which the funding is distributed are clinical and laboratory studies, grants for training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and awards that benefit beginner researchers, the press release states.

Kunkel noted that the Medical School has “significant expertise” in multiple areas of biomedical research. He wrote that one study that received a significant amount funding is about how bacteria called gut microbiome affect an individual’s health.

“We have had great success in securing funds to study how the microbiome can impact your health,” Kunkel wrote. “Our investigators received large grants to do a genetic assessment of the various bacteria that live in us.”

Considerable funding has also been allocated to the study of pulmonary obstructive disease in the lung, its mechanisms and approaches to treat the disease, Kunkel added.

Looking ahead, Kunkel wrote that grants will become more competitive than ever due to federal budget cuts.

“The competitive funding climate has reached a critical point,” he wrote. “Every future award will be more competitive than we have ever experienced, and we will be thankful for each funded project.”

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