Hopkins wins $70 million NIH grant; UM left out

The Johns Hopkins University regained a five-year, $70 million federal grant designed to change how researchers pursue drug development and other medical treatments, but the University of Maryland, Baltimore lost its first bid for a similar grant, the National Institutes of Health said Tuesday.

The award pleased Hopkins officials, who had been forced to tweak their proposal for the grant after their application wasn't renewed in 2012. The university received $80 million through the program, which focuses on what is known as "translational" research, from 2007 through 2011.


But the grant also demonstrates the worrisome reality of declining federal spending on scientific research, said Dr. Daniel Ford, who leads Hopkins' translational research efforts. University officials expect about 15 percent less than they received for their first five-year grant.

"We appreciate that the NIH has confidence in us to continue to work on the translational research," Ford said. "With all these NIH things, the question is, do you emphasize the positive or bemoan the cuts?"

The grant comes through an NIH program known as Clinical and Translational Science Awards. The program has funded research infrastructure at 62 institutions across the country with the caveat that they redesign their discovery efforts to promote interdisciplinary collaboration instead of individual study.

The grant pays for resources such as shared lab space, inpatient research beds, training opportunities for young scientists and small pilot grants for them to test promising ideas. Hopkins will receive about $7.5 million through the program from October through April, according to NIH records. Then, university officials expect about $15 million for each year through April 2018, Ford said.

But some of those resources will be less plentiful than they once were, Ford said. Slots for training, for example, are being cut from 25 to 15, he said.

Broader cuts to NIH funding lie ahead, with a 2 percent reduction coming in January as part of the automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester.

The University of Maryland will deal with the same budget crunch but without the infusion of translational grant money. The institution had gathered a consortium that included the University of Maryland, College Park, Coppin State University and Morgan State University to apply to the grant program for the first time. Officials said they sought to use it to promote collaborations across the institutions.

Organizers of that application were not available for comment Tuesday, but University of Maryland School of Medicine officials said in a statement that they are excited to take advantage of research connections and infrastructure they created in applying for the grant, even though they did not receive the award.

The University of Maryland Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute will encourage collaboration across the University System of Maryland, focusing on research into cancer, heart disease, diabetes and schizophrenia, they said.

Hopkins was among 15 institutions to receive one of the grants, which will total $79 million during the current fiscal year across the institutions. NIH officials could not immediately provide a figure totaling all of the institutions' grants over the five years.

Dartmouth College was the only grant recipient announced Tuesday to receive the award for the first time. Institutions that applied for the grants but were not approved will have to wait until the next time the NIH solicits proposals to try again. Officials said a solicitation is in the works but did not know when it would occur.