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UC San Diego Secures Several Top Spots in Latest National Rankings for NIH Funding

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University of California San Diego School of Medicine solidified its status as a national leader in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, as reported by the 2023 Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR) rankings. In total, the medical school received more than $460 million in NIH grants in 2023, positioning it No. 5 among public institutions and No. 13 overall.  

This accords with its history — six years after its founding in 1968, the school elected to focus on research, “putting UC San Diego on a path to become one of the largest health science centers in the U.S.,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“This year’s Blue Ridge rankings underscore the vitality of scientific research at UC San Diego School of Medicine, where NIH-supported research advances innovative treatments for intractable illnesses, catalyzes new technology, and cultivates the next generation of scientists,” says Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences John M. Carethers, M.D. 

“The breadth of NIH funding we receive annually is a testament to the depth and scope of the biomedical research enterprise at the medical school,” says Steven R. Garfin, M.D., interim dean of the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “To be the fifth ranked public medical school in the nation is a remarkable accomplishment for a school that opened its doors only 56 years ago with a class composed of 39 men and 8 women.”

UC San Diego School of Medicine departments ranked in the top 10 nationwide

Eight departments at UC San Diego’s School of Medicine rank in the nation’s top 10 for NIH funding to a specific department.

Banner that reads UC San Diego School of Medicine ranked number five for NIH funding

At the No. 1 ranked Department of Pharmacology, a multidisciplinary, cross-campus team specializing in structural and computational biology, molecular modeling, signal transduction and immunology research, drug design and state-of-the-art imaging hopes to untangle the mechanistic underpinnings of multiple human diseases to develop therapeutic treatments.

Multidisciplinary research also dominates in the Department of Neurosciences, the other No. 1 ranked UC San Diego School of Medicine department. The clinicians and scientists in the department share a commitment to neurosciences education and research with the goal of developing transformative advancements in the care of adults and children with neurological disorders.

  • Neurosciences #1 (NIH funding: $41.97 million)
  • Pharmacology #1 (NIH funding: $33.36 million)
  • Family Medicine #2 (NIH funding: $23.12 million)
  • Pediatrics #4 (NIH funding: $56.66 million)
  • Psychiatry #4 (NIH funding: $57.80 million)
  • OB-GYN  #5 (NIH funding: $13.73 million)
  • Dermatology #9 (NIH funding: $4.45 million)
  • Radiology #9 (NIH funding: $19.57 million)

Top five NIH-funded principal investigators

Gary Firestein

Gary S. Firestein, M.D. is senior associate vice chancellor of Health Sciences at UC San Diego and founding director of the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI), the largest research institute at UC San Diego. He was the university’s top NIH-funded researcher in 2023 with an award total of $9.8 million, much of which supports the ACTRI. He also brings in individual NIH grants for his research, which focuses on the development and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

JoAnn Trejo

JoAnn Trejo, Ph.D. is senior assistant vice chancellor of Health Sciences Faculty Affairs and professor of pharmacology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. She was awarded $8.9 million. One-third will be used to support her biomedical research on how cells’ responses to extracellular signals are regulated in conditions of breast cancer progression and inflamed blood vessels. The other two-thirds support training and workforce development.

Trey Ideker

Trey Ideker, Ph.D. is a professor of medicine in the Division of Human Genomics and Precision Medicine and adjunct professor of bioengineering and computer science. He was awarded $8.4 million in NIH funding; approximately half stay within his lab and half are directed to coinvestigators in the centers he directs. Ideker's lab integrates cell biology with recent advances in artificial intelligence to map the molecular pathways underlying cancer, leading to intelligent systems for precision oncology.

Davey Smith

Davey Smith, M.D. is assistant vice chancellor of Clinical and Translational Research, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, professor in the Department of Medicine, and the Florence Seeley Riford Chair in AIDS Research at UC San Diego. He is awarded $7.5 million annually to continue his research related to the study and cure of infectious diseases, such as HIV and COVID-19.

Joseph Califano III

Joseph A. Califano III, M.D., director of the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Head and Neck Cancer Center, and professor and Iris and Matthew Strauss Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Head and Neck Surgery, was awarded $6.8 million. Approximately $5 million is awarded to the cancer center and the remainder funds his research lab, which investigates the molecular basis of head and neck cancer.

Three University of California schools rank in top 15 nationwide

The University of California system has not one but three medical schools ranked among the top 15 in the U.S. In addition to UC San Diego (No. 13), UC San Francisco tops the list at No. 1, and UCLA ranks No. 11.

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