On March 3, Robert Guldberg, Vice President and Executive Director of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, testified before the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Transportation & Economic Development to highlight the importance of the University Innovation Research Fund (UIRF) and urge the Oregon Legislature to restore funding this legislative session.
The UIRF is a competitive grant fund of $10 million created by the legislature in 2019 to match competitive federal research awards, increase the competitiveness of Oregon universities for federal research funds, leverage federal grants that require matching funds, and support innovation and research capacity. The UIRF was not recommended for funding in this year’s State budget.
Guldberg shared an example of how the UIRF has contributed to expanding research capacity at the UO. He stated, “At the University of Oregon, this funding has been fundamental to our development of new cell therapies and technologies for cell therapy manufacturing. It has helped support two undergraduate students, one graduate student, two post-doctoral fellows and one full time Research Assistant.
“The manufacturing sector around cell therapy is a rapidly growing biomedical market and could help make Oregon a player in a market sector that is conservatively projected to surpass $10 billion worldwide within the next decade. Cell therapies have potential applications for everything from treating cancers to repairing spinal cord injuries to reducing opioid addiction associated with back pain.”
Guldberg also demonstrated how this matching funding helps make universities more competitive when seeking federal research funds. He explained, “Our $600K of URIF funding immediately enabled a $600K federal subcontract from the DOD. We subsequently received a $580K cell-manufacturing grant from the NSF and then a $2.5 million grant from NIH to develop a cell immunotherapy for trauma. Oregon is competing with many states that have similar funds to the UIRF to cover these matching fund requirements found in many federal grants. Without the UIRF, Oregon may lose out on important research opportunities.”