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NIH Funding for Proteomics Projects Falls Almost 22 Percent in 2006 to $102.4M

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Funding from the National Institutes of Health supporting proteomics research fell nearly 22 percent this year over 2005, according to an analysis of data from a government database of grants information.
 
In 2006, the NIH handed out 282 grants totaling $102.4 million for proteomics projects and research using mass spectrometry compared to 317 grants amounting to $131 million in 2005.
 
In addition, the average amount for each grant awarded slid 12 percent to $363,233 in 2006 from $413,232 in 2005.
 
The data was gathered from a database of federally funded biomedical research projects conducted at universities, hospitals, and other research institutions. In addition to funding information for the NIH, the database contains data for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and the Office of Assistant Secretary of Health.
 
Proteomics research was funded solely by the 27 institutes and centers that comprise the NIH, however.
 
The results were compiled from a search of project titles using key words such as “proteome” and “mass spectrometry.” While the results are not a comprehensive list of all grants given for proteomic research, they provide a snapshot of funding trends in 2006 in the discipline and may provide a preview of what to expect for the coming year.
 
The decline in spending comes at a time when the NIH, the nation’s largest funding engine, is facing a cut in its overall budget. Last month NIHDirector Elias Zerhouni said that the funding “challenges” the agency is facing are “eroding the growth of NIH at a time when opportunities for scientific progress and advances in human health have never been greater.”
 
Zerhouni said the agency’s cash crunch, especially after a time of doubling growth, has slowed programs in certain research programs, including those that rely on proteomic technologies, and made it more difficult for researchers to extend ongoing programs.
 
And as ProteoMonitor sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News reported this week, the US Senate passed legislation that aims to reform how much money the National Institutes of Health will receive from the federal government over the next two years, how it should spend it, and how its activities should be monitored.
 
The NIH Reform Act of 2006, which was passed by the House in September and will soon be considered by the White House, aims to centralize power over the agency’s purse strings, strengthen the power of the director, streamline accountability, and create greater transparency at the agency.
 
The act will also empower Zerhouni to authorize and identify research areas that “are either underemphasized or overemphasized, and suggest appropriate changes,” said the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in a summary of the bill. The committee has jurisdiction over the NIH.
 
“It’s just a really difficult climate regardless of the discipline,” said Jeff Ranish, an assistant professor at the Institutes for Systems Biology. “On average, I think it’s 10 percent of grants getting funded.” The NIH this year rejected two of his grant proposals for developing proteomics technology for studying protein complexes.
 
Freakin’ for the Funding
 
In 2006, proteomic researchers from 134 institutions and companies received funding, ranging from as much as $2.4 million, given to Alma Burlingame at the University of California at San Francisco for her project, “Bio-organic biomedical mass spectrometry resource,” to as little as $3,300, awarded to Hilkka Kenttamaa at Purdue University for a project titled “Mass spectrometry studies on radical reactions of DNA.”
 
Researchers at UCLA received the highest level of funding, both in terms of the number of grants awarded — 12 — and the total dollar amount, $6.1 million. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh received 10 grants — the second-highest number of grants given —  totaling almost $2.5 million, while scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital received almost $4.5 million — the second-highest amount in total dollar figure — divvied into six grants.
 
While the majority of the awards went to researchers at universities, laboratories, and hospitals, scientists in the private sector received 31 grants, or 23 percent of the grants awarded, totaling $8.4 million, or 8.2 percent of the total dollar amount.
 
Alan Greener at Gene Therapy Systems received the single highest grant given to industry research, $822,028 for his project, “Screening Complete TB Proteome for Protective Antigens.” Meanwhile, Calibrant Biosystems was awarded six grants, the most given to one company, for more than $1.7 million, the highest total dollar amount given to a company.
 
The grants weren’t limited to US entities either: Three non-US entities received NIH funding in 2006. Stephen Dorus at the University of Bath, UK, was given two separate grants — one for $38,976, another for $7,000 — to characterize human and mouse sperm proteomes.
 

“It’s just a really difficult climate regardless of the discipline. On average, I think it’s 10 percent of grants getting funded.”

Stephen Challacombe at King’s College London, UK, received a $270,000 grant for his project, “The oral mucosal proteome: perturbation in HIV infection and Candida co-infection.” And the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Canada was given a $216,198 grant to support genomic and proteomic research into prostate cancer by Marianne Sadar.
 
Annually, about 1 percent of NIH’s total funds go to overseas institutions, NIH spokesman Don Ralbovsky said.
 
Notables
 
Among notable institutions conducting work in proteomics research, the Scripps Research Institute received four grants this year, totaling more than $1.2 million, a sharp drop-off from more than $7.1 million it received in nine grants last year. It is unclear, however, whether researchers there applied for fewer grants in 2006.
 
However, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was given four grants for more than $1.6 million, compared to four grants for $1.3 million in 2005. Also, the Institute for Systems Biology received one grant for $343,728 in 2006, compared to three grants for almost $1.5 million a year ago. And the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center received three grants totaling $658,963 this year, up from two grants totaling $525,000 in 2005.
 
Many leading researchers who have pioneered work in proteomics and mass spectrometry continued mining federal funds in 2006. John Yates at Scripps received two grants for a total of $866,229, compared to five grants for more than $2 million a year ago; Samir Hanash at Fred Hutchinson was given one grant for $584,871, compared to one grant for $585,215 last year; Joshua LaBaer at Harvard was awarded two grants for a little more than $1 million, almost the same as a year ago when he was also awarded two grants for $1.1 million; and Donald Hunt at the University of Virginia received $1.5 million in two grants, also virtually unchanged from 2005 when he received two grants for $1.5 million.
 
Richard Smith at Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories received five grants totaling more than $3.5 million, the highest amount given to any one individual doing proteomics research during the year. A year ago he received two grants totaling $2.7 million.
 
It was unclear how many NIH grants each of the individuals may have applied for this year, and changes in funding may be reflective of an increase or decrease in applications. In some cases, the funding received in 2006 may also be continuations of multi-year funding awarded in earlier years.

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