February 3, 2022

IU med school receives record NIH funding for Alzheimer’s and other health research

The amount of funding the IU School of Medicine received this year  from the NIH is a record amount. - (WFYI file photo)

The amount of funding the IU School of Medicine received this year from the NIH is a record amount.

(WFYI file photo)

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $217 million to fund research at Indiana University School of Medicine in the current fiscal year.

That’s $5 million more than the school received last year from the organization and nearly twice the amount it received five years ago.

The top-funded study looking at early-onset Alzheimer’s received $16.6 million. The study focuses on a form of Alzheimer’s disease that affects patients between the ages of 40 and 65.

“The NIH sees that that is a huge public health issue,” said Tatiana Foroud, executive associate dean for research affairs at the School of Medicine. “As we age, the number of people who could develop Alzheimer's, or what we call these related dementias, it's going to continue to skyrocket.”

Other studies that received funding look at new treatments for Alzheimer’s and support translational research, which aims to ensure IU’s research efforts involve and benefit local residents, including minority communities.

“As part of that, we work very hard to listen to the communities, to individual stakeholders, not just patients in a clinical setting, but people out in the community,” said Dr. Sarah Wiehe, the co-director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and associate dean for community and translational research.

Several research projects looking at health equity issues also received NIH funding. One project that received $5 million aims to address racial disparities in the youth juvenile justice referral system for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.

“So this represents so many exciting things, in my opinion, one is the connection with mental health systems, as well as justice agencies,” said Wiehe, who is part of that research team. “So [it’s] looking comprehensively not just at treatment, but upstream at screening and referral, and how that’s going to affect them not just in terms of their clinical disease, but [the implications] of their justice system interaction and long-term wellness.”

Foroud says the funding is also expected to create more jobs and spur economic activity.

“Those people could be employed doing research for us. It could be supplies that are needed for that, you know, it sort of goes through the whole supply chain,” she said.

According to a report by United for Medical Research, a coalition of public and private medical research groups, every $1 million of NIH funding could create up to 13 jobs in Indiana. Last year, the report estimated the funding spurred more than $500 million in related economic activity.

Indiana University School of Medicine ranks 14th among public medical schools and 27th overall in terms of NIH funding.

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This story comes from a reporting collaboration that includes the Indianapolis Recorder and Side Effects Public Media — a public health news initiative based at WFYI. Follow Farah on Twitter: @Farah_Yousrym.

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