U researchers get $28M in grants

By By Deborah Rafferty

By Deborah Rafferty

U scientists received 95 research grants, totaling $28 million in federal economic stimulus grant money to fund research projects ranging from developing a diagnostic test for colon cancer to understanding the genetics of the human metabolism.

The National Institutes of Health provided the funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Of the 241 research institutions that applied for these grants nationwide, 114 were awarded in Utah. The U received 95 of them, totaling about $28 million, said Thomas Parks, vice president for research. The U’s accumulation of the 95 grants places it in the top 10 percent, ranking just below MIT, he said.

“It suggests that our faculty is very competitive in grant competitions and identifies us as a leading institution in research,” Parks said.

Nine of the grants are for new research, and the remainder are for renewed funding for existing research.

Randall Burt, professor of internal medicine, along with Deborah Neklason, research associate professor in oncology sciences, received one of the nine Challenge Grants. Through this grant, they will receive about $1 million during a two-year period. The research will focus on developing a new diagnostic test for colon cancer. Researchers hope that this test will serve as a more accurate diagnostic test and provide an alternative diagnostic tool in place of the standard genetic test, Neklason said.

Another grant recipient, Carl Thummel, professor of genetics and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will study fruit flies for metabolism regulation research. An irregular metabolism can lead to obesity and diabetes. Thummel’s research hopes to understand the genetics of fruit flies, which have been used as the beginning step of many genetic discoveries to learn more about how to better treat these disorders, he said.

“Obesity and diabetes are on the rise worldwide and are major health risks,” Thummel said. He said some high schools around the country have cut out soda to combat this growing problem.

This money will not only be used to fund research to develop new breakthroughs in the medical world, but it will also help Utah’s economy. According to a study done at the U, for every $1 million of grant money received, 20 new jobs are created8212;eight at the U and 12 outside the U, Parks said. Grant money is also used to pay researchers’ salary, which amounts to $1.4 million generated for every $1 million received from the grants.

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