VCU’s sponsored research awards portfolio closed at all-time high in recent fiscal year

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VCU’s sponsored research awards portfolio closed at all-time high in recent fiscal year

The sponsored research awards portfolio at Virginia Commonwealth University closed fiscal year 2014 at an all-time institutional high of $262.3 million — a 5.8 percent increase compared to the previous year. The recent fiscal year officially closed on Aug. 31.

A quantitative measure of VCU’s success is found in the research funding resulting from investigator-initiated grants. This amounted to approximately $187 million in FY 2013, and increased to $206 million in FY 2014 — representing a 10 percent increase in the faculty-driven core funding of the VCU portfolio.

“Underpinning the growth of VCU’s research enterprise are our faculty researchers,” said Francis Macrina, Ph.D., vice president for research and innovation at VCU.

“Our faculty are asking important questions and proposing creative strategies to get answers that increase our knowledge. This competitive edge ultimately brings grant awards to VCU to support faculty research across the institution,” he said.

During FY 2014, VCU was awarded several significant federal grants. For example, early in the fiscal year, VCU received a $62 million, five-year grant from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to study mild traumatic brain injury. This was followed by an $18.1 million, multi-year grant from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health to study novel tobacco products. Other areas of strength include VCU’s National Institutes of Health and the Department of Education portfolios.

“Our strength in federal funding sets the stage for continued growth,” said Macrina. He noted that federal funding agencies are placing a premium on interdisciplinary research proposals, and the collaborative culture of VCU will be an asset in competing for a broad range of federal funding opportunities.

Macrina added that the university’s researchers already are competing with increasing success for multi-programmatic awards that involve interdisciplinary projects, with several investigators, who typically span multiple departments and schools. A number of these types of proposals were funded in FY 2014, including center grants, training grants and multi-site cooperative projects.

“Such broad-based, interdisciplinary research often provides new knowledge and discoveries that can be translated to applications that benefit society,” said Macrina. He noted that VCU has established a track record in such innovation and expects translational research activities to grow in the coming year.

VCU-sponsored program awards totaled $262,294,683. Of this, more than $80 million came from the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The top four VCU schools or colleges in terms of sponsored programs awards included: Medicine ($134.9 million), Arts ($42.7 million), Education ($28.8 million) and Humanities and Sciences ($17.2 million).

Approximately 53 percent of the total awards came from federal funding sources, with 10 percent from industry, 12 percent from the state and 25 percent through other sources, including foundations.

For three consecutive years, VCU has been ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top 100 research universities in the country in federal research expenditures. VCU is currently ranked at 101 in total research expenditures.  

Further, VCU is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a “Research University-Very High Research Activity,” the highest ranking afforded by the Foundation. Carnegie also has placed VCU in the status category of “Community Engagement.” VCU is among 28 public research institutions that have earned both of these distinctions.


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Francis Macrina, Ph.D.
Francis Macrina, Ph.D.