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OCTOber 30, 2005
WORLD, NATIONAL LEADERS
RIGHT ON YOUR BLOCK


By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald

 

As you likely know, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the nation’s leading public universities with the real aspiration of being the nation’s leading public. There is tremendous energy here in teaching, research, outreach, the arts. Our challenge is to sustain and build upon that energy in ways that best serve the people of North Carolina – those like you who live very close to the campus and those in the state’s other 99 counties.

The term leading, in the context of this university’s vision, signals – above all – leadership. Carolina has seized opportunities to demonstrate such leadership at the national level in recent years while remaining true to North Carolina’s values.

Faculty research funding has increased over the past year, bucking national trends and affirming our status among the nation’s research leaders. Faculty research pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy and creates jobs through new products and spin-off companies. Carolina currently has 25 spin-offs. In fiscal 2005, our faculty attracted $579 million in total contract and grant funding – up slightly over last year. The NIH is our central funding source and we ranked 15th nationally in 2004 with nearly $290 million.

A timely example of our research leadership is this month’s awarding of eight grants to Carolina – more than any other U.S. university (public or private) – as part of the second round of National Institutes of Health “Roadmap for Medical Research” initiatives. This program encourages researchers to attack complex problems using interdisciplinary collaboration and sophisticated computational techniques to create quick translations to patient care.

Behind Carolina’s eight awards, the next most successful institutions were Vanderbilt and Columbia, each with six; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with five; Johns Hopkins with four; Harvard and Stanford with three each; and Duke with two.

Our funding so far for these awards, totaling $15.5 million, will include support for the new Carolina Center of Nanotechnology Excellence, which will marry our expertise in nanotechnology with patient-care research at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of our School of Medicine.

Winning these early awards on the next cutting-edge research topics helps set a pattern for future funding. Last fall, in the first year of this NIH program, we also placed first among all institutions with six large Roadmap grants. One factor in our success has been the creation of a faculty-led office that guides the campus-wide efforts to compete at the highest level for these prestigious awards. That, combined with the Carolina faculty’s great interdisciplinary research strength, has positioned us exceptionally well in this important national research endeavor.

And the faculty members leading this initiative that will translate into improved patient care here and across the nation are, it might be said, your neighbors.

Let me introduce you to a few of your neighbors – people who are making positive change in the health of all of us and in the lives of neighbors around the world.

Dr. Rudy Juliano, professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine and chair of the Carolina Roadmap Executive Committee, guides our efforts to compete for these prestigious awards and directs the faculty-led office I mentioned above. He will lead the nanotechnology center effort funded through the new Roadmap grants.

Other Chapel Hill residents involved in securing this new round of grants and now directing the resulting research efforts are:

• Dr. Bruce D. Cuevas, research assistant professor
of pharmacology in the School of Medicine;

• Dr. Michael Jarstfer, assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy;

• Dr. K.H. Lee, Kenan professor of pharmacy and director of the School of Pharmacy’s Natural Products Laboratory;

• Dr. Eugene Orringer, professor of medicine and executive associate dean in the School of Medicine;

• Dr. Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition in the schools of Public Health and Medicine, a fellow at the Carolina Population Center, and director of the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Program;

• Dr. David P. Siderovski, associate professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine; and

• Dr. Alexander Tropsha, professor in the School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Orringer will continue and diversify his longstanding program in multidisciplinary clinical training, one of the hallmarks of the School of Medicine. Dr. Lee will create chemical diversity libraries of compounds derived from medicinal plants. Dr. Popkin will be training postdoctoral fellows in a manner benefiting scores of future scientists, clinicians and others in interdisciplinary obesity efforts and complementing Juliano’s program in clinical medicine. Drs. Cuevas, Jarstfer, Siderovski and Tropsha will build on Carolina’s strength in basic science investigation with their new programs to develop better biomedical assays and to boost understanding of complex molecular interactions.

These are people who contribute to the university’s national reputation. And we believe Carolina’s strength and positive reputation contribute to the quality of life here in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County.

Some of the world’s leading researchers are on the Carolina faculty and many of them live right here in Chapel Hill like the eight scholars I’ve featured here. Perhaps one lives down the street from you.

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Readers may contact him at jmoeser@unc.edu.





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