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UTHSC Has Another Record-Breaking Year for Research Grants, Contract Awards

Anna Bukiya, PhD

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Office of Research has reported another record-breaking high for grant and contract awards received in a single fiscal year. The final numbers for UTHSC’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2022 (FY22) show annual grant and contract awards totaled $133 million, a $6.3 million increase from last year’s $126.7 million.

Extramural research award dollars in FY22 currently total $132,973,602. More than half of these funds come from federal sources. The faculty of all six colleges and four campuses broke records in a number of categories, including grant proposal count by fiscal year and quarter. Additionally, the UTHSC College of Pharmacy moved up to Number 12 nationally among colleges and schools of pharmacy in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health.

These latest numbers mark the sixth straight year that UTHSC’s total award amount has risen. Year-over-year metrics show an increase from $85 million in FY17 to today’s $133 million in research awards for the university. This represents a 56% growth in research grants and contracts in six years.

Dr. Steve Goodman

“I couldn’t be more proud of the research community at UTHSC and the accomplishments they achieved this year,” said Steve Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for Research at UTHSC. “Despite the reshaping of the academic world by the COVID-19 pandemic, and amid major ongoing clinical reorganizations and hospital realignments for clinical care and graduate medical education, our researchers leaned into the challenge to continue delivering innovative work and providing solutions to improve the health of all Tennesseans.”

“Fiscal Year 2022 demonstrated the power and consistency of the UTHSC Operational Strategic Plan for Research playbook, which has allowed us to capitalize on creative avenues for stimulating growth, particularly the creation of statewide initiatives and the CORNET Awards that reward collaboration and innovation. The CORNET Awards have led to over $30 million in extramural research awards over the past six years.”

Since 2016, Dr. Goodman has introduced a number of statewide initiatives that have helped attract significant new funding and research leaders to UTHSC. Examples of these are among the top national awards UTHSC received in FY22:

  • Colleen Jonsson, PhD, Van Vleet Endowed Professor, and director of the UTHSC Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) and the Institute for the Study of Host Pathogen Systems, received $3.21 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to upgrade equipment and infrastructure in the RBL.
  • Ken Ataga, PhD, Plough Foundation Endowed Chair in Sickle Cell Disease, and director of the UTHSC Center for Sickle Cell Disease, received $3.2 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for a project to build AI that can predict progression of chronic kidney disease in sickle cell patients.
  • Gabor Tigyi, MD, PhD, Harriet Van Vleet Endowed Professor in the Department of Physiology, and Sue Chin Lee, PhD, associate professor in the same department, received $3.16 million from the National Cancer Institute to develop a drug that boosts the immune system response in cancer patients to destroy tumor cells.
  • Karen Johnson, MD, MPH, Endowed Professor of Women’s Health, chair of Preventive Medicine, and director of the Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute, received $3.2 million from the National Cancer Institute for a project to test the use of health information technology in managing obesity among disadvantaged groups.
  • Alex M. Dopico, MD, Van Vleet Chair of Excellence, and professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Addiction Science, and Toxicology (PHAST), and Anna N. Bukiya, PhD, professor in the same department, received $2.19 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for their investigation of the neurotoxic effects of toluene, a common chemical found in many household products. 
  • Wei Li, PhD, distinguished professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy, and Francesca-Fang Liao, PhD, professor of Pharmacology, Addiction Science and Toxicology in the College of Medicine, received $2.16 from the National Institute of Aging to test a new way to combat the root cause of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

The FY22 research portfolio was further boosted by the Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2), which generated $9.8 million, an increase of $3 million compared to FY21. To date, the network has brought more than 250 clinical trial opportunities to the university and the citizens of Tennessee, generating more than $21.5 million in awards to the university since 2018.