The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reclaimed its second-place ranking on the list of research and training grants awarded to medical schools by the National Institutes of Health in fiscal 2004.
Penn was awarded 947 grants totaling $393.6 million last year, according to figures released by the federal agency last week.
With a budget of $28 billion, the NIH is a critical funding source for scientists at medical schools and other research institutions. The research also can have a strong impact on economic development, leading to the creation of companies and jobs tied to medical advancements.
Dr. Arthur H. Rubenstein, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and dean of the university’s medical school, noted Penn’s grant funding increased 9.4 percent last year at a time when the NIH awards to medical schools were up 3.9 percent.
That means there was more competition in what was an already competitive environment, he said.
Rubenstein said part of Penn’s strategy for attracting new grants was to follow the blueprint created by the NIH and focus more research in areas such as cardiovascular health; diabetes and obesity; and translational medicine (moving research from the lab bench to the patient bed). At the same time, he said, Penn continues to keep its commitment to other key areas such as oncology and neurosciences.
Rubenstein said while Penn is thrilled to be back in second place, a position it held from 1998 to 2002, the actual ranking is less important than the university’s effort to continually bring more research funds onto the West Philadelphia campus.
It takes extraordinarily good scientists who are flexible enough to respond when national imperatives change, he said.
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore continued to lead all medical schools, with NIH grants totaling $449.5 million. Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which displaced Penn in the No. 2 spot in 2003, slipped to fourth last year with grants worth $371.7 million. The University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine climbed one slot to third place with grants totaling $380 million.
Philadelphia is home to three other medical schools that ranked in the top 100.
Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University dropped four places last year to 50th, with 228 grants totaling $78.7 million. In 2003, the Center City medical school ranked 46th with $81.5 million in grants.
Dr. Robert L. Barchi, Jefferson’s president, said while he is never happy to see any slippage in the medical school’s rankings, the institution is already recruiting new physician-researchers to replace those who left before his arrival on the Center City campus last year.
Barchi said Jefferson’s fiscal 2005 rankings also will be down because of last year’s departure of internationally known cancer researcher Carlo M. Croce, who left Jefferson to lead Ohio State University’s human cancer genetics program.
I think after another year our numbers will grow again, Barchi said.
As part of a long-term planning process, Jefferson has identified several key areas where the university will focus its research efforts. Those areas include oncology; cardiology; neurosciences; infectious diseases, vaccine and biodefense; health-outcomes research and public health.
Temple University School of Medicine also slipped four slots, to 84th from 80, despite a slight increase in its grant amount, which was $28.1 million last year and $27.5 million in 2003.
In an interview last month, Dr. John M. Daly, dean of the medical school, said Temple has worked aggressively to bring more researchers to its campus.
In the past two-and-a-half years, Temple has recruited 191 members to its nearly 500-member faculty. Daly said Temple’s NIH funding has already increased as a result of that effort, which he believes will be reflected in next year’s and future NIH rankings.
Drexel University — which lists grant figures for its medical school and the rest of the college together — ranked 91st last year with 61 grants totaling $20.4 million. The medical school was not ranked in the top 100 in 2003.
Bill Stephenson, Drexel’s vice provost for research, said in the 2003 report the NIH did not include a combined figure for the college and its medical school — which is how Drexel tracks its NIH dollars.
We’ve been growing very rapidly this year, he said. Our grants to date are up 60 percent compared to the same time last year.
Stephenson said Drexel has expanded its research team by hiring a dozen assistant professor researchers, along with two mid-level faculty members — Dr. Timothy Block, a liver specialist who focuses on hepatitis research, and Dr. Jennifer Culhane, an obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in research on the epidemiology of premature births — during the past three years.
We’ve placed an increased emphasis on research as one of our key missions, Stephenson said, particularly in the basic sciences with our biochemistry group, neurosciences group and microbiology group. All three of those groups have grown very rapidly for us. … I’m hoping we are going to jump up [in the 2005 rankings] quite a bit.
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the city’s fifth medical school, received four grants totaling $705,675.