Record year for UAB boosted by record research funding

UAB President Ray Watts (UAB)

Despite the pandemic and in part because of it, the University of Alabama at Birmingham extended its most successful era of research funding into fiscal 2021.

UAB received nearly $ 849 million in grants and research grants for the 12-month period ending September 30, up from nearly $ 638 million the year before, according to data from its Office of Sponsored Programs. . The additional $ 211 million, which is an extraordinary 33% year-over-year increase, includes two pandemic-related scholarships totaling $ 201 million.

“It’s just amazing,” said Christopher Brown, vice president of research. “This is a testament to the strength of UAB’s research enterprise, and it includes faculty, post-docs and students, as well as our facilities and administrators who work with them. It also speaks to our leaders, especially President Watts, who drives everyone to excel. “

“The past two years have shown that nothing – not even a global pandemic – can dampen our spirit of innovation or weaken our drive to serve and be successful,” said UAB President Ray Watts. “We emerge even stronger from these challenges, and I have no doubts that this will allow us to continue to raise the ceiling of our success. “

“As far as our research enterprise is concerned, the effects of the pandemic were immediate and in real time but were not lingering,” said Brown, who said it was “buzzing in all directions.” He cites two elements as evidence:

  • During this period, each of the six health-related schools is among the top 10 public universities receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health, and UAB ranks in the top 3% of top US universities based on all federal research funding granted.
  • Industry support from all sources totaled $ 149 million, up 49% for the year, and industry-supported clinical trials, a subset of that number, increased by 42 million dollars (56%) for the year.

Brown said that while the extraordinary scholarships from the Federal Emergency Relief Fund for Higher Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are excluded from the year-end total, UAB’s research funding exceeded still $ 648 million in 2021 – a $ 10 million year-over-year increase that brings the five-year rate of increase to 43%.

The big elevator

Brown said that while a dollar figure is a way for UAB to measure annual progress and benchmark itself against its peers, “the most important thing about research is its impact on the world and on the people”.

Brown distinguishes the two grand prizes – not necessarily to be renewed – to illustrate. One for $ 59 million is from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, distributed to most universities and used to support employees and students affected by the pandemic.

The second is a $ 142 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reached the UAB School of Public Health through the Alabama Department of Public Health. It has been used to perform COVID-19 tests at K-12 schools across the state. “Because of our demonstrated competence in this area, we were well positioned to partner with the Department of Public Health to provide these safeguards to children and adults in elementary and secondary schools in our state,” Brown said.

Brown is optimistic that growth will continue in 2022.

Even when lab work was halted this year, professors continued to write and submit grants and publish the results of past research, Brown said. Overall, proposal submissions hit an all-time high this year at 5,767, a 2.8% increase over last year, and the number of awards remained stable at 4,467.

“We’re going to see all the benefits over the next year or so, as the proposals submitted will become funded grants,” Brown said. He also highlighted other strategies that will drive the success of UAB next year and beyond.

“Schools are focused on attracting and recruiting teachers who bring ideas and research with them,” he said. UAB’s leadership in biomedical research is a strength, and Brown is also excited about growing forces, including materials and biomaterials engineering, autonomous vehicles, data visualization and resilience.

Another attractive feature is the Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE) at UAB, which “encourages and nurtures the entrepreneurial ecosystem here through technology transfer and more,” said Brown. “This helps turn research into an economic advantage by promoting patents, licenses, spin-offs and startups which in turn benefit our research enterprise as these attract and benefit professors. “

In FY2021, HIIE-managed intellectual property disclosures increased by 50% to 127, over 19 patents were issued, 44 licenses were executed, three startups were launched and $ 4.87 million income has been generated.

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.


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