Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stimulus funds have provided $61.1 million to U-M so far



U-M scientists and engineers have been awarded 159 federal stimulus-package research grants to date, totaling $61.1 million. The funding includes 113 National Institutes of Health stimulus awards, more than any other U.S. university or college.

Stimulus funds from the NIH, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy will support a variety of basic science, biomedical and engineering projects, from novel cancer and vaccine studies to research on ultra-energy-efficient computers and the next generation of rechargeable batteries.

In addition, stimulus-package funding from the Energy Department will pay for a $19.5 million U-M research center to explore new materials for solar cells.

“The stimulus-package research grants will increase the pace at which the University of Michigan and other universities can address significant problems facing our world in the areas of health, engineering, and technology development,” says Stephen Forrest, vice president for research.

 “The funding also supports training of future researchers, and the spending on salaries, supplies, and laboratory upgrades undertaken by these projects adds to the economy,” Forrest says.

The research funds were included in the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package approved in February, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Research grants will continue to be awarded in the coming months.

As of Monday, the 113 NIH grants to U-M researchers totaled $21.1 million. Most of the awards went to the Medical School.

“At the U-M Medical School, our faculty have been successful in getting government funding for many of their projects despite a general slowdown in federal funding for health research in recent years,” says Steve Kunkel, senior associate dean for research at the Medical School.

“The new stimulus funds will help us conduct research to solve medical challenges and bring our innovations from the lab to the bedside more quickly,” says Kunkel, an endowed professor of pathology research.

Dr. Janet Gilsdorf, professor and director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Service at the Medical School, received a $546,488 stimulus award from NIH. She will use the funding to search for new vaccines to ward off bacterial ear infections that plague children.

“The stimulus funds will allow us to identify H. influenzae proteins that would be excellent candidates for a vaccine to prevent middle ear infections,” Gilsdorf says. The funding will enable Gilsdorf to hire one junior scientist, retain one mid-career scientist and provide partial support for an additional mid-career scientist.

Brian Ross, a professor of radiology and biological chemistry at the Medical School, will use his $531,387 NIH award to develop and validate an imaging-based biomarker to determine if a treatment is working in patients with cancer that has spread to the skeletal system.

“We anticipate that the results will have a significant impact on the field of medicine for years into the future,” says Ross, co-director of the school’s Center for Molecular Imaging. The funding enabled Ross to hire two more technical staff members for his study.

In addition to the Medical School, the College of Engineering, the School of Dentistry, LSA, the College of Pharmacy, the Life Sciences Institute, the Institute for Social Research and the School of Nursing also received NIH stimulus funding.

Through Monday, U-M researchers have also received 44 stimulus awards from the National Science Foundation, totaling $18 million.

The largest of those awards, for $1,993,000, went to David Blaauw, a professor of computer science and engineering and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the College of Engineering. The grant will fund a study of ultra-energy-efficient computing.

Other NSF stimulus awards to U-M will support: studies of next-generation cellulosic biofuels, chaperone-assisted protein folding in cells, mathematical modeling of rechargable batteries, and a search for gravitational waves emanating from spinning neutron stars.

Last week, the university received a $2.5 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department to create courses on topics such as hybrid electronics, battery technology and green power. That U-M award is part of a $2.4 billion federal program — funded by the stimulus package — designed to spur manufacturing of batteries and other components for electric vehicles, creating thousands of jobs.

In April, the Energy Department announced that stimulus funds will pay for a new $19.5 million Energy Frontier Research Center at U-M. Researchers there will study the fundamental properties of materials for high-efficiency solar cells. Twenty-two U-M faculty researchers will participate.