Flat federal grants force U-M cancer center researchers to find creative funding sources
As federal funds have plateaued from major research funding institutions, scientists at the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center are facing a growing funding gap over the next five years.
The National Cancer Institute awarded the Cancer Center a $28.4 million grant to fund the center through 2017, officials announced Monday. It’s the same level of funding the center has received in renewal awards in 2007 and 2002.
U-M's Cancer Center employs 337 faculty members that care for cancer patients and conduct research for ways to improve treatments. Research efforts include clinical and prevention/control programs, cancer stem cells, experimental therapeutics and cancer genetics.
Wicha said the center had applied for a 65 percent increase in the grant from the National Cancer Institute, and was approved for all but 2 percent of the increase.
However, because of the freeze the National Institutes of Health has put on research grant dollars, U-M’s Cancer Center only was able to receive a renewal of the grant funding from previous years.
The renewal funding doesn’t mean the U-M Cancer Center will be cutting back its programs, Wicha said.
“It puts on us more of a challenge to be able to raise funds from other means to complement the funding from the NCI,” Wicha said. “I’m confident that we can do it, but we have to be quite creative; doing the same things we’ve done in the past wont be sufficient in the future.”
The Cancer Center will be heightening its efforts to secure funding through philanthropy and national fundraising campaigns.
Courtesy of the University of Michigan Health System
“In order to take advantage of the new opportunities that are being created in our science, we have to raise more funds,” Wicha said.
To receive the grant funding renewal, the Cancer Center submitted a 1,900-page plan and underwent a review in the fall of 2011. The center received an “outstanding” rating, and the renewal of its “comprehensive cancer center” status.
In the face of the National Institute of Health’s funding problems, U-M’s Cancer Center would have received a huge funding cut had the center not done so well during its evaluation, Wicha said.
Wicha said if the National Institutes of Health was having a regular budget year, the Cancer Center would have received a large increase in funding. Regardless, the Cancer Center received the most funding from the National Cancer Institute among academic medical centers in 2011.
With the 65 percent funding increase they applied for, Wicha said the Cancer Center was going to fund faculty in new clinical research facilities at NCRC.
“The money that comes in for the research here has a big impact on the economy,” Wicha said, noting the Cancer Center has spun off about 10 biotech companies in the area.