Penn President Amy Gutmann Meets With Vice President Biden on Stimulus Funding for Research

WASHINGTON -- University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann attended a meeting at the White House today as an invited guest of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to discuss research funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Also in attendance were White House science advisor John Holdren and five other university presidents.

“Stimulus funds are generating new knowledge and new jobs: Both are life-saving and putting us on the road to recovery,” Gutmann said.  “The Recovery Act has enabled Penn to add 700 new jobs in research and 400 ancillary job opportunities in construction and operations due to stimulus-funded projects.

“These funds have a multiplier effect,” Gutmann said.  “An economic impact study demonstrated that for every dollar we spend on research, four additional dollars are spent in our region and nationally. These dollars create jobs.”

Penn researchers have secured more than 400 Recovery Act-funded grants worth nearly $200 million, across each of Penn’s 12 schools.  More than $170 million of this funding came from the National Institutes of Health.  In 2008, the University brought in about $750 million in sponsored research funding, the majority of it from federal agencies such as the NIH.

Gutmann was joined by five other university presidents who discussed the tangible impacts of scientific research taking place at their universities in a meeting held in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

The others were France Cordova, Purdue University; Mark Yudof, University of California; Elson Floyd, Washington State University; former Penn provost Ron Daniels, Johns Hopkins University; and Bernard Machen, University of Florida.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, contained $21.5 billion for scientific research, the purchase of capital equipment and science-related construction projects.  While thousands of jobs have been created directly or retained as a result of this funding, the focus of this morning’s discussion was on the basic research and discovery that would not have been possible if not for the Recovery Act.

Although the investment was less than 3 percent of the $787 billion stimulus measure, the money represented a historic infusion of funding for research.  It was also an affirmation of the essential role scientific inquiry and discovery play in both short-term recovery and long-term economic growth.

Recovery Act-funded projects at Penn include:

• A $3.9 million grant to Katrina Armstrong of the School of Medicine for the Center for Comparative Effectiveness in Genomic Medicine, which generates and synthesizes clinical, molecular and behavioral information to improve cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survival.  The center is improving treatment for nicotine addiction, is using variations in DNA to improve breast cancer screening and is developing personalized therapy for non-small cell lung cancer.  So far, this center has hired seven new research staff members, is filling additional positions and partially supports 20 faculty members.

• Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the country, and Daniel J. Rader of Penn Medicine used $1.2 million in stimulus funding to help identify several genes which regulate serum lipids and are linked to heart disease, a discovery that will be published in the journal Nature next week.  He has conducted a genomic analysis of thousands of individuals with cardiovascular disease and compared these to healthy individuals.

• Alzheimer’s disease is the second-biggest killer in the United States, and Gerard Schellenberg of Penn Medicine is using stimulus funding to develop a new way of gathering data to unlock the secrets of Alzheimer’s, a project that could lead to a cure.

• A $20 million “Grand Opportunity” stimulus grant for a project led by psychiatry professor Raquel E. Gur who is collecting brain-behavior information that will help science better understand healthy brain development and mental health in 10,000 young people.  This study will create a landmark dataset to propel understanding and treatment of developmental mental illnesses.  Gur’s lab has hired 20 people to gather information on mental health traits as part of the program.

Video of the White House meeting is availabe at  Dr. Gutmann's remarks begin at 20:07.