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cancer center and med school building signs
The UH Cancer Center (left) and the John A. Burns School of Medicine (right) account for about 95% of the $63 million awarded to Hawaiʻi in the 2020 federal fiscal year.

The State of Hawaiʻi received an economic boost during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the world class research at the University of Hawaiʻi. Funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) directly supported 1,298 jobs and generated $191 million in economic activity, according to a March 24 news release by the federal agency. NIH is the nation’s medical research agency and part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine account for about 95% of the $63 million awarded to Hawaiʻi from NIH during the last federal fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019–September 30, 2020) and includes:

Render of U H Cancer Center lab interior
Early Phase Cancer Clinical Research Center (internal render)
  • Hoʻola: Early Phase Clinical Research Center ($6,478,224) will be the only facility in the state to provide access to clinical research for patients across multiple disciplines, and will expand the research capabilities of UH Mānoa.
  • Ola HAWAII ($4,750,701) will grow and support a community of health disparities investigators to harness the power of diverse thought to determine the causes of and interventions for health disparities.
  • INBRE IVHawaiʻi Statewide Research and Education Partnership (HiSREP) ($3,736,887) will continue the development of emerging investigators, which will widen the reach of the network to all levels of biomedical research scientists through a new array of competitive granting mechanisms including teaching-postdoctoral fellowships, pilot projects, new initiatives and team-based collaborative grants.
  • person work in U H Cancer Center lab
    UH Cancer Center researcher Loïc Le Marchand conducts lab work part of the Multiethnic Cohort Study.
  • Understanding Ethnic Differences in Cancer: The Multiethnic Cohort Study ($3,213,574), which was established in Hawaiʻi and southern California to study risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases, was designed to take advantage of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the two geographic areas, as well as the expertise of the investigators in nutrition, ethnic/racial studies, and genetics.
  • COBRE-DIABETES ($2,195,147) The John A. Burns School of Medicine developed a multidisciplinary Hawaiʻi-based Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Diabetes Mellitus, which will initially span departmental and eventually campus borders to promote the metabolic health of the people of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.

“When the Kakaʻako campus was first envisioned in the 1990s, the commitment UH made to the state was that our health science research would bring in millions in federal dollars to Hawaii while performing research that improves the lives of our residents and beyond,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis Syrmos. “We believe is actually underestimating the true economic impact and look forward to a more comprehensive analysis of UH’s economic impact to Hawaiʻi currently underway by UHERO, the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Resource Organization.”

More than 80% of NIH’s $41.7 billion annual budget is awarded through competitive grants to researchers in every state, according to the recently-released report NIH’s Role in Sustaining the U.S. Economy by United for Medical Research (UMR). The income generated by the jobs supported, as well as by the purchase of research-related equipment, services and materials, when cycled through the economy, produces new economic activity.

woman in lab
COBRE-DIABETES Director Mariana Gerschenson in her lab.

“This data clearly shows that NIH research is not just essential to our health, it is helping to fuel our economy as well,” said UMR President Chol Pak. “Beyond the jobs and economic activity outlined in our report, the NIH also is supporting discoveries and training a workforce that help America’s life sciences industry remain a global leader.”

In fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 in the State of Hawaiʻi), UH received $456.6 million in extramural funding, topping $400 million for the second consecutive year. Extramural funding is external investments from governmental agencies, including NIH, along with industry and non-profit organizations that support research and training activities conducted by university faculty and staff.

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