US National Institutes of Health uses economic stimulus funds to build and modernise research labs across the country

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $1 billion  (?700 million) to universities and medical centres across the country for the construction or upgrading of scientific research laboratories. 

The 146 grants, announced on 14 May, were funded through the US economic stimulus package enacted in early 2009. The money, doled out between last summer and the end of April, is being spent on actions ranging from constructing whole new sites for cutting-edge research to updating the sanitation and working space within a facility.

These building projects are particularly attractive to the federal government because they spur the economy, an NIH official tells Chemistry World. Not only will the initiatives provide a better environment for research while simultaneously creating more space and employment opportunities for researchers and their support staff, they will also create jobs for engineers, architects, plumbers, carpenters, and those who provide building materials.

Among the recipients of these construction grants is the University of Utah, which has received $8 million to expand and update its chemistry building, which is over 30 years old. The goal is to provide a cutting-edge interdisciplinary environment for biomedical and biologically related research. The investment from NIH has also triggered additional contributions from other donors, including the local chemical industry.

The expanded building will feature greatly enhanced biological chemistry and instrumentation capabilities. The university is recruiting new faculty to occupy the additional space, which is expected to house as many as six major research groups. 

The University of Mississippi also benefitted, awarded just shy of $14 million to build a new facility to help commercialise natural product discoveries for applications within agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Alice Clark, the university’s vice chancellor for research and sponsored programmes, says the new funding will help the university and its researchers by providing needed much facilities, like laboratories for scale-up production and development of lead compounds. 

’As with all research activities, there will ultimately be significant direct and indirect impacts on the local economy, by creating high-tech jobs, drawing visitors to our local community, attracting research-related businesses to our area, and creating spin-off businesses based on research discoveries,’ Clark adds. She expects that 70 new jobs will be created for scientists who will work in the facility, and over 200 jobs will be created in constructing the facilities. 

Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Europe