KU pharmacy school stays at No. 2 in national research rankings

(Courtesy of Lawrence Journal-World)

Kansas University’s School of Pharmacy remained a national research power last year, ranking No. 2 in the country among pharmacy schools in National Institutes of Health research funding.

The school ranked No. 2 for the third time in four years, the school announced Tuesday, in the most recent rankings compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. The list is for the federal 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2012.

During that year, the school earned about $25 million in NIH funding, up $3 million from the year before. Those funds were earned by 24 different faculty members, making for an average of more than $1 million per funded researcher, the highest in the country.

“We’ve got a lot of motivated faculty who are very good in their fields,” said Ken Audus, the dean of KU’s pharmacy school. “And they’re certainly persistent, because funding rates at NIH are pretty low these days.”

The school’s NIH-funded researchers are working to develop treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, aging and other health issues.

Tom Prisinzano, a professor and chairman of medicinal chemistry in the school, leads an NIH-funded project aiming to develop medication to treat dependence on stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine. He also assists on several other research projects.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears” go into a grant proposal, Prisinzano said. Fewer than one in 10 grant proposals submitted to the NIH receives funding, Audus said.

But the KU school’s researchers have proved to be a good investment, Prisinzano said.

“When you have great researchers at a great place, things come together,” he said.

As budgets have grown tight over the past five to 10 years, Audus said, NIH funding has become a bit tougher to come by. And the federal sequester cuts that took effect this year will likely help the competition become even fiercer.

But KU has been able to fight against that decline in available funds because of the strength of its researchers, Audus said.

“Retaining good folks here is always a challenge, but I’m grateful that we’re able to keep the good people we have,” he said.

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