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Home Special Edition: Top 20 NIH RO1 Awards Spotlighted

May 04

Special Edition: Top 20 NIH RO1 Awards Spotlighted

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Special Edition:

Top 20 NIH RO1 Awards Spotlighted

There’s been some discussion recently about how many NIH grants a researcher might have at one time. But Principal Investigators Association editors thought it might be more interesting to determine how much money these grants actually amount to.

For simplicity, we focused on RO1 grants and compiled a list of the Top 20 awards for the 2010 fiscal year. Taking data from public records, we tabulated the amounts, recipients, their fields of research and their institutions.

The largest sum given to one researcher is about $6.5 million. And the lowest dollar amount on the list is roughly $3 million. The data are summarized in the table below:


We compared the host institutions of the Top 20 RO1 awardees to the list of “The Top 25 American Research Universities” (compiled by The Center for Measuring University Performance) and discovered some noteworthy facts.

Five of the Top 20 RO1 dollar winners are affiliated with a Top 25 research institution. These include University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Columbia.

But the remaining institutions on the Top 20 RO1 list are not among the top research universities. And some medical centers with notable reputations for research — such as Johns Hopkins, Duke, Stanford and Yale — cannot be found on the RO1 Top 20 list.

Another interesting finding is that five of the Top 20 RO1 awardees are not from universities at all. They are from other types of facilities, including independent research institutes and the RAND “think tank.”

Research Interests of Top 20 Awardees

Lloyd Johnston, PhD

Dr. Johnston is co-creator of a study that has been a chief source of information on America’s youth since the 1970s. Johnston and his colleague Jerry Bachman, PhD, devised Monitoring the Future, a long-running annual study that follows a subset of graduating high school seniors as they age. The results are still released every year, and the government considers them an invaluable source of information.

Jane Paulsen, PhD

Dr. Paulsen is head of an international study investigating the biological, genetic and clinical aspects of Huntington’s disease. By including research sites around the world — Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Canada and the United States — Dr. Paulsen and her colleagues hope to speed up the findings’ journey from bench to bedside.

“Science is often slowed by models of academia that fail to allow transparent sharing of advancements and rapid translation to clinical medicine,” Dr. Paulsen says. “Data sharing and collaborative efforts are critically needed to more efficiently advance scientific findings and help them make an impact in people’s lives.”

Melissa Bondy, PhD

Dr. Bondy is the leader of the largest genetic study of adult and pediatric gliomas to date. She says collaboration is essential in her field because there are so few researchers studying brain tumor development. It was this attitude that helped her convince 15 centers in five countries to aid her in researching genetic predictors of gliomas.

William Blot, PhD

Dr. Blot has been directing cancer research studies for more than 30 years. His research has offered insight into the relationship between cancer development and demographic, occupational, lifestyle and other factors. His current project, the Southern Community Cohort Study, is the largest-ever epidemiologic study to assess the reasons for racial disparities in cancer incidence and mortality.

Arie Kapteyn, PhD

Dr. Kapteyn’s research involves economic behavior, aging and data collection related to aging. His work draws on internationally comparable data, which helps to reveal the effectiveness of national policies on a large number of health and behavioral outcomes. His ultimate goal is to better understand how people make choices affecting their health and well-being.

“My early work was on determinants of subjective well-being,” Dr. Kapteyn says. “At the time — in the ‘70s and early ‘80s ¬— there was not a lot of interest in this topic among economists. Nowadays, it is one of the hottest topics around. It’s gratifying to see that.”

John Anthony Baron, MD

Dr. Baron’s research interests include sex hormone-related diseases, cigarette smoking, administrative data sets, clinical epidemiology and cancer prevention. His major projects have focused on the investigation of orthopedic epidemiology using Medicare data, cancer prevention trials and etiological epidemiology.

Russell E. Ware, MD, PhD

Dr. Ware is the PI of four NIH-funded grants. He has three multicenter clinical trials investigating the use of hydroxyurea for children with sickle cell anemia and neurological dysfunction. He also has a grant that allows his lab to investigate the pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics of hydroxyurea treatment.

“Performing outstanding research that merits NIH funding is hard work,” Dr. Ware says. “The successful investigator will work long hours and sacrifice certain things in order to achieve the goal of NIH-funded research. Being an organized hard worker is critical to long-term success.”

Joseph Piven, MD

Dr. Piven studies health services for individuals with developmental disabilities, and he conducts molecular and family genetic studies of the intermediate phenotypes in autism. Specifically, his research is focused on structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging of the developing brain in autism, and the genetic condition Fragile X syndrome.

Catherine Schaefer, PhD

Dr. Schaefer studies the epidemiology of psychiatric and neurologic disorders, early antecedents of adult chronic disease, and genetic epidemiology. She is spearheading a program that will aid new research on the genetic epidemiology and pharmacogenetics of many diseases.

Susan Huang, MD, MPH

Dr. Huang researches the clinical epidemiology of highly antibiotic-resistant organisms, estimating the risk for infection and assessing practical means for prevention. Her goal is to use epidemiologic, statistical and mathematical modeling methods to affect the way we monitor and intervene in the spread of bacterial infectious diseases.

Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, PhD

Dr. Pericak-Vance is investigating genetic contributions to the etiology of common complex traits such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism, age-related macular degeneration and multiple sclerosis. Her biggest breakthrough was identifying the apolipoprotein E4 variant as a risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“It opened the door to new research in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Pericak-Vance says. “And it was a prototype for research in other common complex traits in that it showed that common genetic variants could contribute to disease risk.”

Thomas G. Brott, MD

Dr. Brott was a leading investigator in studies that identified tissue plasminogen activator as an acute treatment for ischemic stroke. He also helped design the NIH Stroke Scale. His current studies (CREST and SWISS) are investigating stoke risk and prevention.

Ron Keren, MD, MPH

Dr. Keren’s research prompted the recommendation of annual flu vaccines for children with neurological and neuromuscular diseases. He and his colleagues also developed a screening system to identify newborns at risk of developing severe neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. He is currently researching the genetics and proteomics of vesicoureteral reflux, recurrent urinary tract infections and renal scarring. And he is working to augment an administrative database with clinical data, which will facilitate comparative effectiveness research.

“The common theme through my projects is performing research and building research infrastructure to help us understand the best way to take care of diseases, particularly common diseases, that affect children,” Dr. Keren says.

Steven Belinsky, PhD

Dr. Belinsky uses in vivo and in vitro animal and human models to identify and define genetic and epigenetic changes involved in lung cancer development and progression. His work is being translated into screening for smokers at high risk of developing lung cancer and for testing novel approaches for chemoprevention and intervention.

“It is imperative to move your science forward with how the field is progressing,” Dr. Belinksy says. “Research questions should be focused but also have the potential to translate ultimately toward improving human health.”

Narayan Sastry, PhD

Dr. Sastry studies the health, development, and well-being of children and adolescents. His current R01-funded research includes surveying New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, studying children’s transition to adulthood, charting life course from birth to early adulthood, investigating disparities in chronic disease among young adults, and studying transitions from pre-school through high school.

David A. Bennett, MD

Dr. Bennett is the head of two groundbreaking studies investigating common chronic aging conditions. The Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Project require participants to submit to annual detailed clinical evaluation as well as ultimate organ donation.

“There are only two epidemiologic studies in the world that are investigating risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and require participants to agree to organ donation as a condition of entry,” Dr. Bennett says. “I happen to be the PI of both.”

Anjana Rao, PhD

Dr. Rao is studying how T cells turn on genes when responding to foreign antigens. She is the head of six research projects funded by R01 grants: bZIP proteins and lymphocyte gene induction, regulated accessibility of a cytokine gene locus, regulation of store-operated Ca2+ entry: STIM and ORAI, role of micro-RNAs in T cells and other immune/hematopoietic cells, regulation of CD45 alternative splicing by HNRPLL, and signal transduction and gene induction in T lymphocytes.

Jonine Bernstein, PhD

Dr. Bernstein is PI of the WECARE study, which examines genetic susceptibility and radiation exposure in breast cancer. Her team has performed genome-wide screening to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with second primary breast cancer and radiation.

Frank M. Sacks, MD

Dr. Sacks conducts laboratory research on human lipoprotein metabolism and clinical trials in nutrition and cardiovascular disease. He was PI of the CARE trial, which found that pravastatin treatment reduced coronary events and stroke in patients with average cholesterol concentrations. He is currently PI of a trial investigating dietary approaches for weight loss and maintenance.

T. Scott Stroup, MD, MPH

Dr. Stroup’s research focuses on the effectiveness of interventions and services for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses. He is PI of the Schizophrenia Trials Network and directs several studies examining treatment strategies for the disease. His interests include disseminating evidence-based practices and other efforts to improve healthcare quality.

Disclaimer: This eAlert is brought to you as an informational tool by the Principal Investigators Association, which is an independent organization. The eAlert has no direct connection with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nor is it endorsed by the agency. All views expressed are those personally held by the author and are not official government policies or opinions. The raw data in this report were obtained from NIH public records, but the arrangement and interpretations were those of the Editors. The information about the work of the top awardees was obtained from the Internet and other public sources, and in some cases was supplemented with direct interviews of the researchers.

Comments (5)
written by whatsupdoc, May 04, 2011
Interesting to see which topics are getting the big money.
Not impressed, and disgusted
written by Not Impressed, May 04, 2011
There is nothing reassuring in this information. There is little reason to believe that 3 grants to one individual working on HD in Iowa is better than 1 grant each to 3 persons pursuing independent ideas.

4 grants to one person for autism looks like 3 grants wasted. Give him one grant to work on his BEST idea, and grants to 3 others working on their BEST ideas!

I know some of this work, intimately, and it's an utter travesty that so many labs have to be shut down because of the concentration of funding in these labs.
Assoc Prof
written by WrkingOnChnGng, May 04, 2011
I find it incredible that a truly engaged principal investigator can humanly handle 6 grants. My guess is that there are 5 unnamed minions running projects under their boss' moniker.
Managing Director, BSN
written by Zach Dicker, May 05, 2011
This list also dose not match-up with the top 20 organizations presenting at life science mtgs--the top academic orgs are--Harvard, UCSF, Stanford, UT-MD Anderson, Penn State, Johns Hopkins, Yale, Slone Kettering, Weill Cornell, and Washington U,StL--as just released by--
biotechsciencenews.com--The research drive in drug design by the top pharma companies should probably left to another discussion
written by drbethie, May 06, 2011
Almost all of these seem to involve human subjects. So, yes, we now have a different sort of confirmation that clinical research costs more than basic research.

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