UNM Health Sciences Center Research
Student assistant Erin Watson performs research work at the University of New Mexico Clinical and Translational Science Center.
Credit: Sara Mota

Defying a continuing trend of shrinking federal research funding, the UNM Health Sciences Center’s (HSC) Office of Research has again set a new high in grant funding and contracts, pulling in a record $149.8 million last fiscal year for a wide range of high-impact research projects.

These investigations include hindering the spread of ovarian cancer; preventing dialysis for diabetics; measuring long-term effects of asthma medications on kids; manipulating our own immune systems to battle disease; measuring stroke impact on blood vessels to extend effective treatment times; introducing oral care in primary care settings; using peers to deliver addiction and trauma treatments in Rio Arriba County; and more.

“It’s an exciting time in biomedical research,” says Dr. Richard Larson, HSC executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research. “Never before have we been so focused on directly advancing human health in New Mexico. From larger, community-based health programs to microbiological investigations, our researchers are introducing vital insight into their study designs and health discoveries.”

This investigative energy is directed by the HSC’s Vision 2020, an institutional strategic plan that establishes clear educational, clinical and research goals – and their collective target – for the next decade. Adopted HSC-wide in 2010, Vision 2020 creates the first academic health center strategic plan that focuses on improving a state population’s health and health equity as a measure of the institution’s success. Accordingly, all HSC schools, colleges, departments and programs have incorporated measures to improve the health of New Mexico into their annual performance goals.

“The HSC Office of Research is a significant player in our Vision 2020 strategy,” says Dr. Paul Roth, UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences. “We’re using evidence‐based interventions and evidence-informed policy to build on successful research programs and pilots, while aligning existing resources to address community health priorities. Four years into our strategic plan we are engaging whole communities in developing their own health solutions through our well-established statewide clinical research programs.”

Larson attributes much of the HSC’s research enterprise success to the versatility of HSC investigators, and their drive to assemble comprehensive teams of very specialized scientists when developing research projects and proposals. These teams and projects funnel through the HSC’s NIH-designated Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC), which marshals resources and expertise in supporting HSC research centers, programs, projects and activities.

“The HSC’s Clinical and Translational Science Center remains central to our research efforts,” Larson says. “Our CTSC has dramatically improved identifying grant funding opportunities and structuring effective proposals, while accelerating clinical research in our state. We’re engaged in more than 350 New Mexico communities, supporting scores of clinical trials for the treatment of asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, substance abuse, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cancer and more.”

The HSC’s research enterprise has increased its funding awards by 40 percent since 2004, developing more than 30 business startups in the process. “The Health Sciences Center’s research will continue dissecting the most prevalent diseases in our time,” Larson adds. “From cancer to diabetes, we’ll incorporate team science, institutional collaborations and funding partnerships, to continue sharpening our focus on improving the health of New Mexicans and populations throughout the world.”

For more information on UNM Health Sciences Center’s research programs, visit http://hsc.unm.edu/research/. To view the HSC Office of Research 2013 Annual Report, visit http://hsc.unm.edu/research/sites/default/files/documents/ResearchAnnual-2013.pdf.