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David Geffen School of Medicine receives $590M in funding from NIH in 2020

By Natalie Agnew

May 9, 2021 1:33 p.m.

UCLA’s medical school received the second-highest funding nationally among academic medical centers in 2020 from the National Institutes of Health.

According to a UCLA Health press release, the David Geffen School of Medicine received around $590 million in grants from the NIH last year.

Stephen Smale, the school of medicine’s vice dean for research, said the additional funding helped UCLA to go from one of the top 15 institutions receiving NIH funding in 2019 to No. 2 in 2020.

The school also received another $9.2 million in funding from more than 400 donors to conduct research on the COVID-19 pandemic, Smale said in an emailed statement. He added that the funding allowed the school to jumpstart research at the beginning of the pandemic by allowing faculty to begin collecting data that is necessary to apply for NIH grants.

The Department of Medicine was the largest recipient of funding at the school and the No. 1 overall funding recipient among departments of medicine nationwide, according to the UCLA Health press release.

The Department of Medicine is home to the operations center for the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, an international clinical trial network that received approximately $200 million from the NIH to support outpatient trials to test potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 in 2020, Smale said in an emailed statement.

Judith Currier, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and ACTG principal investigator, said the group is a global clinical research network with 53 sites in 16 different countries. The network was dedicated to HIV research before the pandemic but has since shifted its focus to COVID-19, Currier added.

Currier said ACTG was uniquely positioned to lead the way on COVID-19 research because of its number of outpatient sites and expertise in infectious diseases.

“Most of our investigators are infectious disease doctors and others trained in public health and infectious diseases,” Currier said. “So when COVID came along, we were very well-positioned to organize and lead trials to evaluate new possible treatments for outpatients with COVID.”

The outpatient COVID-19 clinical trial, called ACTIV-2: A Study for Outpatients With COVID-19, focuses on developing treatment methods for people recently diagnosed with COVID-19 outside of a hospital setting, Currier said.

Other NIH funding recipients within the school include the Department of Urology, the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Neurosurgery, which is the third-highest recipient in neurosurgery departments nationwide, according to the press release.

The NIH funding will allow the school to focus on other goals going forward such as promoting interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research, specifically related to COVID-19, Smale said.

“The pandemic is hitting much harder low-income underrepresented groups,” Smale said. “A lot of that is due to structural challenges in the health care system that we’re really eager to help address by bringing social scientists and clinicians together to do that.”

Kelsey Martin, dean of the school of medicine, said in the press release that the amount of funding from the NIH reflects the importance of the research done by the school’s scientists to improve health and cure disease.

The NIH research funding enables UCLA researchers to discover potential therapeutics for COVID-19 and inform people worldwide about the virus and indirectly impacts UCLA students, Smale said.

“The fundamental knowledge about the impacts of the virus on human physiology and organ function will then contribute to efforts to figure out how to address that with therapeutics and clinical treatments so that impacts everyone,” Smale said.

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Natalie Agnew
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