Top researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School made their case to legislators Tuesday for a $30 million infusion they say will help spur medical innovations and help develop cures for diseases such as HIV and prostate cancer.
The Senate's higher education omnibus bill, which lawmakers are finalizing this week, will include the $30 million for the medical school, said Higher Education Committee Chair Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonak, who called it a "significant investment.
Bonoff and members of her committee heard a brief presentation by Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, and U Medical School researchers who testified that the increased state funding will help elevate the school's standing nationally.
Cohen said that if the school doesn't receive the money, it would threaten its ability to retain high-caliber researchers who could leave for other top ranked medical schools or universities.
The medical school, which ranked in the top 15 in National Institutes of Health funding in the 1970s and ’80s, since has dropped to 30th nationally and 12th among public medical schools — which resulted in a drop in NIH funding.
Officials blame the drop on the loss of 90 tenured and tenure-track faculty from 1995-2001. U Medical School Dean Dr. Brooks Jackson said restoring the faculty could boost Minnesota’s ranking from 30th to 20th in as little as five years.
"This [the additional funding] is important if we want to elevate the stature of the medical school," Jackson told legislators. "This proposal will go a long way in getting us there."
The additional money would pay for 50 research faculty members over the course of eight years, improving research and attracting the best and brightest students.
Dr. Badrinath R. Konety, a specialist in bladder and prostate cancer, told lawmakers that many experts in his field were trained at the University of Minnesota, which had gained a strong reputation for research on the types of cancers he specializes in.