Miller School’s NIH Funding Climbs to 38th in the Nation

Reflecting the University’s growing prominence as a national research institution, the Miller School has advanced another spot, to No. 38, in the amount of highly coveted and competitive research grants it received from the National Institutes of Health during the 2011-12 federal fiscal year.

Compiled by The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, the national rankings place the Miller School’s annual total for NIH funding at $117.6 million, making it the only Florida institution in the Top 40. The 5 percent increase over last year’s tally also highlights the Miller School’s historic and expanding prowess in the kind of interdisciplinary research that is advancing the understanding of and treatments for heart disease, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and a multitude of other diseases and public health issues.

“The Blue Ridge NIH ranking of U.S. medical schools is the most objective, direct and specific measure of the contributions of a school to research and science and the efforts of an institution to improve the condition and the health of our fellow humans,” said Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., who is also Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of UHealth. “There is no better measure for biomedical research success, or for the dedication of our physicians and scientists to making breakthroughs in the lab that translate into life-enhancing treatments for patients.”

In just six years, the Miller School has jumped 13 spots in Blue Ridge’s NIH award rankings, climbing from No. 51 in 2006 to No. 38 in 2012.

This year, three Miller School departments – ophthalmology, neurological surgery and epidemiology and public health – ranked in the top 10 percent for NIH funding when compared to their peer departments nationally.Ten of the Miller School’s top-funded principal investigators ranked in the top 5 percent among their NIH-funded peers nationally.

“We are extremely proud of our faculty for their innovative talent, perseverant spirit and all around brilliance,” said Omaida Velazquez, M.D., Interim Executive Dean for Research, Research Training and Innovative Medicine.

With $8.42 million in NIH awards, Jose Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and Chair of Epidemiology and Public Health, was the highest NIH-funded researcher on campus. He also ranked third in the nation among 395 peers in public health. With $3.86 million, Steven E. Lipshultz, professor of pediatrics and the George Batchelor Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cardiology, was the second highest funded Miller School investigator, and in the top 1.5 percent of 1,104 peers. His award total includes the first installments of two grants totaling more than $14.2 million for studies on pediatric cardiomyopathy.

David I. Watkins, professor of pathology, ranked third on campus with $3.6 million, placing him in the top 1.4 percent of pathology investigators nationwide. Ranking fourth and fifth were medicine’s Joshua M. Hare, M.D., the Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine and Director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, with $2.82 million, and surgery’s Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., Chief Innovation Officer, Vice Provost for Innovation and the Martin Kleiman Professor of Surgery, Microbiology and Immunology, and Biomedical Engineering, with $2.73 million. They both ranked in the top 5 percent among their respective departmental peers nationally.

Also breaking the $2 million mark were Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, with $2.5 million; Ralph Sacco, M.D., M.S., Miller Professor, Chair of Neurology, and Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders, with $2.3 million; Gwendolyn Scott, professor of pediatrics, with $2.16 million; and C. Hendricks Brown, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and Director of the Prevention Science and Methodology Group, with $2.05 million.

Pericak-Vance, Sacco and Scott are also in the top 5 percent among their respective peers nationally.

According to the Blue Ridge data, the Department of Neurological Surgery received $4.2 million in new NIH funding, placing it fourth among 38 total departments across the nation. The department’s highest funded investigator, W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., the Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Senior Associate Dean for Discovery Science, received $1.5 million of the department’s tally.

The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and the Department of Ophthalmology each rose to No. 6 among their respective peer departments nationally. Ophthalmology climbed four spots with $7.6 million in new funding, with Vittorio Porciatti, D.Sc., research professor of ophthalmology and Director and Vice Chair of Research, and Jeffrey L. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, bringing in $1.8 million and $1.2 million respectively. Porciatti’s tally put him in the top 5 percent among his peers nationally.

With nearly $15 million, Epidemiology and Public Health rose one spot, up from last year’s No. 7, with Szapocznik contributing more than half of the department’s new funds. Included in his tally was an initial $3.64 million of the $20 million grant the NIH awarded this year to establish the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute, placing the University in an elite consortium of 60 institutions charged with accelerating the translation of biomedical discoveries into therapies and solutions for an increasingly diverse nation.

Seven other departments – pathology, biochemistry and molecular biology, urology, anesthesiology, cell biology, pediatrics and psychiatry – climbed at least five spots when measured against their peer departments nationally and/or increased their funding by at least $1 million.

Making the biggest leap in both categories was the Department of Pathology, which jumped from No. 79 to No. 44 among 93 total departments with $4.4 million, or a 489 percent increase, in new funding. The bulk of pathology’s new funding was awarded to Watkins, whose $3.6 million tally included $2.2 million for his quest to develop a vaccine for AIDS from the vaccine for yellow fever.

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology also posted significant gains in both categories, rising to No. 37 from No. 59 out of 105 departments, and increasing its funding by 65 percent to $5.6 million. Michal Toborek, M.D., Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and Vice Chair for Research, was awarded $1.4 million of the department’s total, placing him among the top 5 percent of his peers nationwide.

Also contributing to the Miller School’s ranking were six students or post docs who earned NIH fellowships worth more than $260,000.

“Our greatest asset resides within our faculty and within the students they train and mentor today who will revolutionize health care in the future,” Velazquez said.

View a list of the funding and ranking for 21 Miller School departments and a list of the top 25 principal investigators.

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