Physiology department ranked third in national fundraising

The department of physiology and biology at the USC Keck School of Medicine was recently ranked third in national researching funding, according to the Blue Ridge Institute. The National Institute of Health contributed $16 million last year.

Photo courtesy of Alex Familian from USC News.

Berislav Zlokovic, the director of the USC Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, has worked to improve fundraising in his department.

Before coming to USC, he spent several years working as a professor in both the neurosurgery and neurology departments at the University of Rochester. In 2009, he received the Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s and related diseases, and was given a $100,000 award for his breakthrough research in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Zlokovic is recognized worldwide for his pioneering research on the blood vessels in the brain and the crucial role they play in our health,” the University of Rochester reported shortly after he was awarded. “He has made a series of surprising findings that are forming the basis for new avenues of treatment that would complement the stable of medications that doctors now have to treat patients with the disease.”

In 2011, Zlokovic returned to USC with a determination to raise research funding. He worked with researchers to think differently and take risks with new technologies.

“The Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute is home to a particularly talented group of scientists, all of whom contribute to the overall success of the department,” Zlokovic said to USC News. “Without the collective actions of our strong research group, we would not have risen in the ranks as fast as we did.”

He accredits his fellow researchers for their outstanding work that contributed to increases in funding. Ralf Langen, director of the Protein Structure Center, and neuroscientist Terrence Town received a combined $4.3 million over several years.

Additionally, at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, there are multiple investigators with two or three NIH R01 investigator-initiated grants. The R01 provides funding for health-related research based on the NIH mission.

“The Keck School of Medicine’s physiology research efforts have helped the department gel, and the growth of USC’s Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute plays a key part in that,” USC News reported. “Faculty members who worked at the institute once belonged to departments scattered across the Keck School, [Zlokovic] said, but their funding and complete financial support was funneled through the Zilkha Institute instead of their individual departments.”

Organizing researchers together to make collaboration easier, as well as encouraging researchers to test out new territory, has significantly contributed to USC’s rising ranks in funding, USC News said.

“With the support of the faculty, the Keck School of Medicine and the USC community at large, the dean, provost and president, and a remarkable dedication and sponsorship by Selim Zilkha and Mary Hayley, we are now realizing this dream in the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute all together,” Zlokovic said to USC News.