Published December 13, 2013
Federal funding is still the gold standard for biomedical research, but during the past decade and especially as a result of sequestration, many young investigators are conducting research that is supported largely by private, not government, organizations.
Matthew Barth, research assistant professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has more than $800,000 in funding, all from private sources. Last summer, he was awarded a $330,000 grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers.
The research the foundation funded will support Barth’s work studying what makes a subset of children with pediatric lymphoma resistant to the most effective cures. Pediatric lymphoma is the third most common pediatric cancer.
In addition to the St. Baldrick’s grant, Barth is or has been funded by Hyundai Hope on Wheels, a charity run by the automobile maker Hyundai; the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation; and UB’s Henry C. and Bertha H. Buswell Research Fellowship for MDs who want to pursue research as a career.
Barth expects to apply soon for his first National Institutes of Health grant.
“Knowing how competitive those applications are at this time and how small a percentage are being funded, I wanted to make sure I had a really solid application,” he says. “So I sought out private foundations that dedicate grants for career development or young investigators who focus on pediatric oncology. I’ve really utilized those to support myself in these early years.”
More young investigators are taking this approach and their institutions are providing assistance.
“Every university looks to diversify its research portfolio, especially since there is such a strain on federally funded research because of sequestration and other fiscal challenges,” says Elizabeth Smith, assistant vice president for administration and planning in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.
“It’s prudent portfolio management,” Smith says. “These private funds are particularly useful in establishing a principal investigator’s early career.”
Barth, a UB faculty member, is a practicing hematologist/oncologist who conducts research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. He notes that both RPCI and UB help young investigators by keeping them updated on funding opportunities. Barth also collaborates with investigators at other institutions who share information on funding opportunities.
“We are a small group of investigators who have formed a consortium focused on investigating novel, targeted ways to treat B-cell lymphoma,” he says.
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