For Your Health
For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

SMHS awarded nearly $49 million of research funding in 2022

The Office of Research Affairs at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) has announced that the School was awarded nearly $49 million in fiscal year 2022 for its research and servioce missions. This amount represents a single-year record in sponsored funding for the School.

According to the Office’s Sponsored Projects Awards report, the SMHS won a total of 104 awards from external agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, National Science Foundation, the State of North Dakota, and other entities and foundations totaling $48,651,717.

This figure follows a several-year growth trend in external funding awards to the School: over the past decade the School has brought in almost $320 million in funding to UND for biomedical research and related purposes.

“At a time when there is increasing competition for funding nationally, this continued acceleration in SMHS extramural research funding is a tribute to the outstanding work and dedication of our faculty and staff,” said Dr. Marc Basson, senior associate dean for Medicine & Research at the School. “They have focused their efforts on discovery relevant to improving the health of the citizens of North Dakota in areas ranging from cancer and neuroscience to infectious disease and Indigenous health.”

Such awards are already being put to use to study the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Lyme disease, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Highlights from this group of 2022 awards include:

  • Kumi Nagamoto-Combs, Ph.D., assistant professor with the Department of Biomedical Sciences, was awarded a $1.8 million, five-year R01 grant through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH to explore the link between food allergies and neurodegeneration. R01 grants are the most prestigious awards researchers can receive from the NIH and are given for mature research projects that are hypothesis-driven with strong preliminary data.
  • Tim Casselli, Ph.D., research assistant professor with the Department of Biomedical Sciences, won a $70,500 NIH R03 grant to study Lyme disease. Lyme disease, which is caused by infection from the tick-borne pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi, can lead to inflammatory diseases affecting the joints, heart, and nervous system. As there are no vaccines or effective vector controls against the infection, the overall goal of Dr. Casselli’s project is to identify burgdorferi targets for prophylactic and therapeutic treatments for Lyme disease.
  • Sandeep Singhal, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pathology, received a one-year, $200,000 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to build cloud-based learning modules for biomedical research together with Google and Deloitte Consulting.
  • Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Population Health—along with his colleague Marilyn Klug, Ph.D., and Soojung Kim, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor and graduate director of the UND Department of Communication—was awarded a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation that will allow the team to further study the effects of a radon education smartphone application on radon testing in the upper-Midwest.

“This is an amazing achievement and continues the dramatic surge in such funding garnered by the School’s faculty and staff over the past few years,” added SMHS Dean and UND’s Vice President for Health Affairs, Dr. Joshua Wynne. “Because almost all the sponsored grants awarded to our faculty are competitive and ranked by other investigators through peer review, the amount of grants awarded to an institution in any one year often is used as a surrogate marker for the size and quality of an institution’s research enterprise.”

Such numbers suggest that both the volume and quality of work coming out of the School are very good, said Wynne.

This growth in sponsored funding is the result of an increase in both large institutional grants that generally are broad in their focus, and smaller, more focused grants to individual investigators. The School’s five large, multi-year grants total millions of dollars each and are dedicated to studying: Indigenous health outcomes, particularly as they relate to historical trauma; host-pathogen interactions and infectious disease; genomics and epigenetics, or the study of how behavior and environment can affect the way your genes function; “translational” research—the study of “translating” laboratory discoveries into bedside therapeutics for direct clinical use; and a program dedicated to cultivating young investigators known as the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (or INBRE) program.

“We are excited with our growth in research funding that has been accelerating dramatically every year,” added Susan Holden, the grant & contract officer for the SMHS. “With more proposals being submitted every month by our outstanding faculty and staff, and the growth within the Office of Research Affairs, we are hopeful to see this trend continue in the coming years.”