Posted September 11, 2013

Research revenues at Temple mark unprecedented growth

Joseph V. Labolito
Neuroscience Chair Kamel Khalili is one of five School of Medicine faculty members who have contributed to Temple’s research funding increase by obtaining a NIH Program Project Grants over the past few years.

Temple University experienced an unprecedented 20 percent increase in its external research funding, from $120.6 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year to $145.2 million in fiscal year 2012-13. This increase comes at a time when major government research funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) saw their budgets decrease.

Research awards for Fox Chase Cancer Center, which joined Temple University Health System last year totaled $43.4 million, bringing total awards at Temple to $188.6 million.

In addition to the growth in research funding, there was a nearly five-fold increase in revenue generated from the licensing of Temple-developed technologies (see sidebar).

“The research productivity of Temple’s faculty is very high, averaging over $100,000 per full-time faculty member, and the fact that our funding increased in an environment when research funding for many college and universities remained flat is a tribute to the high-quality research being accomplished at the university,” said Michele Masucci, Temple’s interim senior vice provost for research.

Masucci attributed some of the approximately $25 million research funding increase in 2012-13 to factors that include success by faculty — particularly in education and medicine — in attaining multi-million dollar grants, major initiatives and collaborations such as the $3 million Blackstone LaunchPad grant to promote entrepreneurship, and the ongoing promotion of cross-campus and cross-disciplinary research collaboration.

For example, a four-year, $3 million i3 (Investing in Innovation) grant from the Department of Education to PNC Chair Barbara Wasik and Assistant Professor Annemarie Hindman to promote early childhood literacy helped the College of Education nearly double its research funding — from $5 million in FY2011-12 to $9 million last year — while the School of Medicine saw its funding increase approximately $7 million dollars.

“At the School of Medicine, there’s been a big shift in funding mechanisms,” said Masucci. “For years, we had one NIH Program Project Grant — which are big multi-year umbrella grants that fund multiple projects — to Ellen Unterwald at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CSAR). Over the past five years, we have been able to obtain four new NIH Program Project Grants.”

In addition to Unterwald, who serves as professor of pharmacology and director of CSAR, the Program Project grants at the School of Medicine have been awarded to Steve Houser, chair of physiology and director of the Cardiovascular Research Center; Kamel Khalili, chair of neuroscience, director of the Center for Neurvirology and the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center; Walter Koch,  chair of pharmacology and director of the Center for Translational Medicine; and Thomas Rogers, professor of pharmacology and director of the Center for Inflammation, Translational and Clinical Lung Research.

“When your School of Medicine moves from having one to five Program Project grants, it builds a bigger capacity to do more research and creates a synergy that attracts additional funding,” she said.

Masucci also credits university-wide research exchanges and the promotion of cross-collaboration with expanding research funding opportunities and making research at the university more attractive to funding agencies.

“We have made a big push to bring together faculty who share similar research interests from across campus, and some of the bigger research awards we’ve gotten this past year have been a result of these efforts,” said Masucci.

For example, Management Information Systems Professor Youngjin Yoo of the Fox School of Business has collaborated with Biology Assistant Professor Rob Kulathinal in the College of Science and Technology to receive two NSF grants for taking genomics and applying it to business evolution.

“This is a very unique collaboration,” said Masucci. “It is this kind of outside of the box thinking that is getting the attention of funding agencies like the NSF. These researchers would have never been working together if it hadn’t been for our research exchanges.

“Proportionally, our research enterprise is lean and mean, but the increase in research funding and expenditures last fiscal year highlights that we are very productive,” she said. “We are demonstrating that we are capable of doing a lot with the resources that we have.”