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VCU hits all-time high of $363M in sponsored research

Funding is up by 25% over the past three fiscal years, including $93.4 million from National Institutes of Health (NIH) .

Researcher working in lab Photo: Getty Images

By A.J. Hostetler

Virginia Commonwealth University’s latest institutional record in sponsored research funding of $363 million marks a 25% increase over the previous three years, reflecting the university’s commitment to addressing societal challenges.  

“The remarkable growth of VCU’s research enterprise is a testament to the passionate commitment of faculty to improve the human condition through innovative research, scholarship and creative practice, said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “I congratulate them for their dedication to VCU’s mission as a major public research university and academic medical center that serves the public good.” 

Combined awards for sponsored programs, including grants, contracts and other funding types directed toward research activity, totaled $362,906,366 for fiscal year 2021, a jump of 8% over the previous year’s $335 million. Research funding grew in nearly every college and school on the MCV, Monroe Park and Qatar campuses.

$93.4 million in NIH funding

VCU's research portfolio across the MCV and Monroe Park campuses represents diversified support from federal, state, industry and private funding agencies. The university received $165 million in total extramural federal funding: 57% from the National Institutes of Health ($93.4 million, up nearly 2%) and 43% from other federal agencies ($71.9 million).

Vice President for Research and Innovation P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., whose office released the figures, noted that the continued increase came “despite various challenges posed by the pandemic and through the innovative and persistent efforts of our faculty, staff and students.” 

“This increase in sponsored funding represents a diversified portfolio of grants and contracts from federal, state, industry and foundations, as well as licenses, royalties and gifts,” he said. “The ability of our faculty to successfully compete and receive this high level of sponsored funding will play a major role in VCU's researchers’ ability to address the societal grand challenges through innovative research in various fields of arts, engineering, humanities, social sciences and medicine.” 

The record funding announcement comes days ahead of a livestream update on the One VCU Strategic Research Priorities Plan, which serves as a framework to streamline VCU’s research investments leading to increased funding and growth and ultimately advance excellence in research. During the hourlong event, Rao and the vice president will discuss the plan and answer questions from the VCU community. (Members of the campus community can be part of this conversation by registering for the Oct. 20 event.)

$32.5 million for clinical trials

Industry funding in fiscal year 2021 jumped 51% over fiscal 2020 to $56.6 million, including $32.5 million for clinical trials. Industry investment in testing potential therapeutics for COVID-19 patients helped drive some of this funding increase. Additionally, VCU received $3.76 million in royalty and licensing income from faculty inventions licensed to companies, with some of the funding used to support "proof of concept" funding to enhance and validate new innovative technologies.

“This varied portfolio of funded projects with substantial potential for impact reflects the growing breadth, depth and competitiveness of our VCU research enterprise and our faculty. This groundbreaking research has a tremendous impact on the human experience we strive to elevate," the vice president said. 

For the past decade, the National Science Foundation has ranked VCU as a top 100 research university based on research expenditures. VCU ranks 65th in research and development expenditures among public research universities. 

Among other designations, VCU remains one of only 28 public institutions to have both a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and a clinical and translational science award funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. VCU is one of 67 universities nationwide classified by the Carnegie Foundation as an R1 Doctoral University – Highest Research Activity, the foundation’s highest ranking, as well as its prestigious Community Engagement status. This recognition places VCU among an elite class of public research institutions that enjoy both distinctions.

Vice President Rao said that as part of the One VCU Strategic Research Plan, VCU supports four key research initiatives: enriching the human experience; achieving a just and equitable society; optimizing health; supporting sustainable energy and environments. “VCU researchers will continue to advance research in these fields to enhance its national prominence and attract and retain the best students, postdocs and faculty to VCU,” he said.

Examples of VCU’s diverse sponsored research can be found on the VCU News Research and Discovery page. For information on our COVID-19 research, please visit VCU Health’s COVID-19 site.

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