UC Denver submits hundreds of grant proposals for stimulus funding

By Staff

An expanded cancer center, a cutting-edge magnetic imaging research facility and a program that will pay science teachers to spend summer vacation working in university labs are among the University of Colorado Denver projects that could soon be funded by federal stimulus dollars aimed at expanding scientific research across the country.

UC Denver has submitted 451 grant proposals over the past month, including several that involve collaboration across all of CU's campuses, Richard J. Traystman, the campus's vice chancellor for research, told the CU Board of Regents on Tuesday.

Systemwide, the university has submitted more than 580 research and equipment grants totaling about $200 million, and more than 10 proposed capital construction grants totaling more than $150 million. As of May 8, CU-Boulder had submitted proposals for 125 federal research grants, and as of May 13, UCCS had submitted 14.

"My hope is we can really put in first-rate scientific grants that will be effective," Traystman said.

President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Denver on Feb. 17, providing up to $800 billion in new federal spending by Sept. 30, 2010. Of that, the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, will receive $10.4 billion in new funding

University researchers faced their first grant application deadline on March 23, requiring them to respond quickly to ensure they received a portion of the federal funding pie. Besides funding for much-needed scientific equipment and building renovations, university researchers are also asking for money to recruit new faculty.

To highlight how competitive the grant application process has been, Traystman told the regents the NIH had received 21,000 grant applications from across the country in February; 38,000 in March; and 11,000 in the first week of April. In addition, the federal agency recorded a one-day record high of almost 3,600 grant applications on April 6.

Traystman called the process "a grant frenzy" among U.S. scientists, and related how his staff has been submitting applications electronically from midnight to 6 a.m. to avoid Internet traffic jams that slow down the government's application Web site.

Among the research agencies that will benefit from stimulus funds are the NIH, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and NASA.

Traystman said the agencies would support research activities for clinicians, graduate and undergraduate students, medical researchers and others working across the CU system. More than $8 billion will fund research at 22 different NIH institutes, he said.

As of Tuesday, UC Denver had already won four awards totaling $1.3 million, a figure expected to grow, Traystman told the regents.

"You can see how quickly the NIH is trying to turn around these submissions and actually make these awards," he said. "Everybody on our campus at UC Denver has been feverishly writing grants, almost to the exclusion of everything else they are involved in."

Besides research, the campus's grant proposals will also fund the purchase of high-end scientific instruments to be shared by researchers, and pay for facility improvements and expansions.

UC Denver Chancellor M. Roy Wilson told the regents that universities applying for the federal grant monies have to have "a certain amount of NIH research already." The more research funding a university receives, the more it is likely to get in the future, he explained.

"We bring in about $370 million a year in grants. We get this money from all sorts of agencies," Wilson said. "Green is good, no matter where you get it from, as long as you obtain it legally."

In response to a question by CU President Bruce D. Benson, Traystman explained that UC Denver, CU-Boulder and the University of Colorado Hospital work closely with affiliate institutions when it comes to research. Local research, teaching and patient care affiliates include The Children's Hospital, National Jewish Health and Denver Health Medical Center.

"Just about everybody is joint appointed," he said of medical researchers who teach in the School of Medicine, conduct research and treat patients at various hospitals. "We do as much collaboration as we can. The more collaboration we have with our affiliates is always better."

As an example of such collaboration, he cited a $17 million a year grant the NIH awarded to UC Denver that involves all its affiliates. The Clinical Translational Science Award, or CTSA, required UC Denver to contribute a modest matching fund, Traystman said.

"The big reason we got it is because of these fantastic collaborative efforts across these campuses," he said, adding that the university would like to expand its partnerships to include UCCS and other Colorado institutions.

"It's incumbent upon us to find places where we can overlap for the good of the institution," Traystman told the regents.