Jay Walsh, vice president for research, notes the role that talent and collaboration have played in this advance. “Northwestern’s research enterprise has grown impressively in recent years due to the ingenuity, hard work, and perseverance of our faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff,” he says. “The level of investment in the University’s discovery is just one sign, but a powerful one, that our researchers continue to create high-impact knowledge with the potential to transform diverse disciplines.”
Northwestern’s total sponsored research funding has risen 63 percent since 2006, a gain unmatched by the University’s peer institutions. The 2014-15 fiscal year marks the sixth consecutive year that annual research grants and contracts exceeded a half-billion dollars.
Strong proposal activity from the Feinberg School of Medicine continues to be the bedrock for this research growth, with more than $400 million dollars of sponsored awards invested in principle investigators at the medical school. Northwestern received a record of nearly $300 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“The scientists on our medical school faculty are at the forefront of their respective fields, and continued recognition of their groundbreaking work by a wide variety of funding agencies is another sign of our growing reputation as a preeminent university for innovative research and discovery,” says Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean at Feinberg. “I have no doubt that as we expand our research enterprise and recruit talented leaders to our faculty funding will continue to increase.”
With construction beginning on the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center — a 14-story science hub to be connected to the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center in Chicago — the breadth of investigation at Feinberg will grow. The new facility will provide laboratories and support space for significant new biomedical research to improve human health through the recruitment of approximately 100 new tenure-track faculty. The first of these is John A. Rogers, the eminent bioelectronics pioneer, who will join Northwestern in 2016.
Last year’s funding successes included projects to research nucleic acid-based nanoconstructs for the treatment of cancer (led by Chad Mirkin and Leonidas Platanias); funding for the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research (Richard T. D’Aquila); a four-year, $27.2 million grant from NIH to renew the
Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (Donald Lloyd-Jones); and a 5-year, $17.5 million grant from NIH for an interdisciplinary effort to invent, develop, and test an implantable drug delivery system to protect high-risk individuals from HIV infection for up to a year at a time (Patrick Kiser and Thomas Hope).
The increased dollar volume of research funding in 2015 came from several sectors, including federal agencies (4 percent increase, $16.6 million), foundations (27 percent, $7.7 million) and voluntary health organizations (15 percent, $2.6 million).
Northwestern’s research centers and institutes saw the biggest year-over-year increase in funding, rising 50 percent ($17.9 million). Awards to Feinberg increased by 3 percent ($11.8 million) and those to the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences increased 8 percent ($4.9 million). In August, the University received $146.2 million in funding, a 47 percent increase over last year.
This story first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Northwestern's research newsletter.