UCI researchers win $529 million in grants and contracts for fiscal 2019-20

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From cutting-edge research and clinical trials focused on cancer care to creating a new center devoted to protecting personal data privacy, University of California, Irvine scholars, scientists and physicians are blazing new paths to help change the world. And their impact keeps growing. In fiscal 2019-20, which ended June 30, UCI researchers received the most funding in campus history: $529 million in grants and contracts.

Awards from federal and state agencies, leading foundations and forward-thinking companies increased by 20 percent over 2018-19 totals, reflecting strong and burgeoning support for UCI's top-ranked faculty, first-rate facilities, diverse and talented student body, and community-based programs.

This research funding milestone surpasses our campus strategic plan goal of $500 million while accelerating UCI's ascent among its Association of American Universities peers as a world-class research university. Despite the hurdles we face during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UCI community continues to make a meaningful impact on regional economic development and to improve society through globally prominent research."

Howard Gillman, UCI Chancellor

"Our faculty, students and staff are truly excelling in an environment of tremendous competition for financial support of research and innovation," said Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research at UCI. "Research is a primary mission for us, and these outstanding results indicate that UCI's preeminent research enterprise will make even greater and more productive contributions to the state, the nation and the world."

A boost in biomedical research

UCI Health Sciences experienced the greatest jump in research funding. The School of Medicine alone garnered $190 million, accounting for 36 percent of UCI's 2019-20 total and representing a second year of over 20 percent growth. The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center - Orange County's only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center - brought in $44 million for basic, translational and clinical research, a 75 percent increase from last year.

The Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders received a five-year, $14.4 million renewal grant from the National Institute on Aging for its Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, the only one in Orange County and one of just 32 across the U.S. conducting leading research to improve the diagnosis, care and treatment of people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

"The health and well-being of our local and global communities depend on the cutting-edge, evidence-based care we provide every day. UCI offers the very best to our patients because we advance the frontiers of knowledge through groundbreaking research," said Dr. Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor for health affairs. "UCI is the region's only academic health center, and year-over-year growth in external funding is one tangible indicator that we are leading the way through empowering discoveries while we train the diverse, interprofessional healthcare workforce of the future to carry on that legacy."

New NSF-funded centers in engineering

Researchers in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering will be using large awards from the National Science Foundation to launch new centers that will put UCI in the forefront of materials science and data privacy research. With $18 million in NSF funding, Xiaoqing Pan, the Henry Samueli Endowed Chair in Engineering and a professor of materials science & engineering and physics & astronomy, is starting a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. It will join 16 existing centers at leading research institutions in the U.S. and establish UCI as a major research hub for Southern California's academic and industry materials ecosystem.

And with $10 million in NSF support, Athina Markopoulou - Chancellor's Fellow, professor and chair of electrical engineering & computer science - will lead the creation of a new research center dedicated to safeguarding personal data privacy in an increasingly networked world.

Sources of funding

Support from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which encompasses the National Institutes of Health, the largest single source of research funding at UCI, rose 21 percent over last year to $189 million. The National Science Foundation provided $65 million, 18.4 percent more than in 2018-19. And gifts and grants from philanthropic foundations and charitable trusts reached $85 million, a 38.5 percent hike.

Other noteworthy new research awards and recipients in 2019-20:

  • Nancy Rodriguez, professor of criminology, law & society, received a $2.7 million gift from Arnold Ventures to conduct the most comprehensive study to date into the sources and consequences of prison violence in seven states. Findings from the three-year, multistrategy investigation will inform the creation of an evidence-based framework for reducing and preventing incidents of violence.
  • Jenny Yang, associate professor of chemistry, will use a $1.5 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to help develop methods for the capture and removal of carbon dioxide from the air and from flue gases emitted by fossil fuel plants. The funding will support an interdisciplinary team - led by Yang - from UCI, UCLA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in its attempt to form new molecular compounds for electrochemical CO2 capture and removal.
  • The Institute for Clinical & Translational Science was awarded $24 million over five years by the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Science. Marking the third highly competitive and successful funding cycle for UCI's ICTS, the grant will go toward initiating and extending efforts to speed the transformation of scientific discoveries into medical treatments for patients.
  • Jessica Millward, associate professor of history and African American studies, and Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, associate professor of African American studies, received a three-year, $271,902 UC-HBCU Initiative grant to partner with Morgan State University, a public and historically black research university in Baltimore, to encourage UC faculty to actively engage with faculty and students at historically black colleges and universities to attract and retain graduate scholars who reflect the communities of the world.

Additional data on UCI's 2019-20 research funding:

  • 1,043 new awards were bestowed during the fiscal year, 21 percent more than in 2018-19.
  • 570 UCI researchers garnered new awards, an 11 percent increase over last year.
  • 39.3 percent of support came from nonfederal sources.
  • $70 million in grant and corporate funding from all sources was received for clinical trials, a 55 percent jump over the previous year.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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