MU Investigators Tally Near $175 Million in External Support
In fiscal year 2006, scientists and scholars at the University of Missouri-Columbia received close to $175 million in external sponsorship, the second highest total in the University's history. This level of funding, while falling just short of last year's record total, indicates that MU's research enterprise continues to occupy a place among the nation's most important institutions of research, scholarship and higher learning.
As in previous years, much of MU's external sponsorship was generated through competitive grants awarded by federal agencies, most notably the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Awards from NSF, for example, reached an all time high of $18.7 million in FY 2006, an increase of more than 35 percent over the previous year's total of $13.9 million.
This boost is significant not just in dollar terms: NSF is among the most competitive of all federal agencies providing funding for university research -- an agency that typically supports only projects representing the cutting edge of contemporary science and engineering. That MU continues to attract high levels of NSF support shows that our faculty investigators are leaders in pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding.
Among the projects that gained NSF support in FY 2006 was a training grant to promote greater racial diversity in environmental studies and conservation biology programs. The program, led by principal investigators Candace Galen, a professor of biological sciences, and Charles Nilon, associate professor of urban wildlife management, will allow students to complete a 14-month rotation in one of three areas: forest and grassland ecology and wildlife biology, urban ecology, and sustainable resources and crop development.
NSF also awarded nearly $5 million to a team of scientists led by Gabor Forgacs, an MU professor of biological physics, to examine the "biological self-assembly process," an investigation that could help provide breakthroughs in regenerative medicine by means of a new process called organ printing.
In addition, competitive NSF grants, along with support from industry, have helped MU's Bruce McClure, associate director of MU's Bond Life Sciences Center and a professor of biochemistry, resolve a long-standing mystery in flowering plant biology; namely, the molecular mechanism that allows plants to reject pollens from close relatives while recognizing and accepting those of more appropriate "mating" partners.
Grants from the National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, have provided major support to MU researcher Tom Thomas, a professor of nutritional sciences. Thomas and a cohort of his colleagues were recently awarded $1.2 million for a four-year study to determine how nutrition and exercise affect rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes (see page 4). Thomas says the study will also examine whether physical activity can mitigate the ill effects of overweight and obesity in adults..
An NIH grant of more than $500,000 will allow Debra Parker-Oliver, an assistant professor of social work, to develop and test a strategy aimed at using video technologies to help cancer patients and their families more fully participate in hospice care. "For me as a researcher, NIH funding is the ultimate goal of any scholar seeking financial support for their scientific efforts," Oliver said last year. "Not only are the funds themselves critical to the ability to solve the identified problem, but the passing of the highest peer review process confirms your ability to conduct scientific research at the highest level."
Of course, MU researchers funded through other agencies are also conducting investigations at the highest level, as you will discover in subsequent pages of this report. These projects are not only extending the boundaries of human knowledge, but are advancing our state's economic development. The previous fiscal year, for instance, saw the University's research enterprise generate more than $220 million in annual research and development spending, expenditures that supported some $450 million in economic activity and 9,000 jobs.
Recent proposals and investments will ensure that MU's contribution to Missouri's economic well-being continues. Examples include state funding initiatives, which could funnel as much as $2 million into MU's new Life Sciences Incubator at Monsanto Place. When operational, the incubator will house 10 to 14 start-up companies that will bring University research findings to commercial markets.
MU and the University of Missouri System have also begun to develop the first stage of Discovery Ridge, a research park located on a 114-acre site at MU's South Farm. The project last year gained a commitment from its first corporate partner, Analytical Bio-Chemistry Laboratories Incorporated (ABC Labs).
At a May 12 ceremony, Sen. Kit Bond lauded the Discovery Ridge development as a way to take science from the laboratory to Main Street. "The research park attracts companies, the companies create new jobs, and those jobs go on to create other jobs with a ripple effect that benefits our entire economy," Bond said. "The partnership between universities and businesses can provide answers to age-old problems of hunger, sickness, malnutrition and poverty."
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton added, "Discovery Ridge represents an unparalleled partnership in the evolution of this state's relationship to the University. It illustrates the power of partnerships that will mark the future of our great University."
In laying the groundwork for this future, MU faculty scientists and scholars are building on a long tradition of world-class research and education in the public interest. As our achievements over the previous fiscal year show, at Discovery Ridge as elsewhere, MU has many reasons to be proud, and a bright future to anticipate.