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VCU cracks list of top 50 public colleges for research

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Dr. Robert Winn, the director of the VCU Massey Cancer Center

Dr. Robert Winn, director of the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, works at the Goodwin Research Laboratory alongside Michelle Van Scoyk, lab manager and research scientist, to extract proteins of lung cancer patients.

Probably no snow this week or this weekend

Virginia Commonwealth University is now the 50th-largest public college in the country for research, based on a survey released last week.

VCU conducted $364 million worth of research and development in the 2021 fiscal year, a number that has grown significantly in recent years, as the university has placed a greater emphasis on research. VCU’s work includes developing a drug to treat pancreatic cancer, recycling oyster shells in the Chesapeake Bay and enhancing the medicines that fight COVID-19.

The new ranking shows “how far and fast we’ve come,” school President Michael Rao said.

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The National Science Foundation released the survey last week, ranking colleges based on their research expenditures. The group defines research as any systematic work to increase knowledge.

The country’s top college for research by a wide margin is Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, which conducted more than $3 billion worth in the 2021 fiscal year.

Among all colleges public and private, VCU ranked 76th nationwide and third in the state behind the University of Virginia ($611 million) and Virginia Tech ($542 million.) George Mason placed fourth in the state, and the College of William & Mary was fifth.

Almost half of VCU’s research expenditures were funded by the federal government. The rest came from school funds, state and local government, businesses and nonprofits.

VCU is poised to move up the list. In the 2022 fiscal year, VCU conducted $405 million worth of research, which is nearly 50% higher than four years ago. The 2022 ranking will be released next year.

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In 2020, professor Michael Peters developed a molecule designed to bind with coronavirus, possibly neutralizing the virus’s proteins. The molecule was licensed by pharmaceutical developer Hoth Therapeutics Inc.

The school’s oyster shell recycling program collects used oyster shells from restaurants and consumers and returns them to the Chesapeake Bay.

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The Massey Cancer Center received a federal grant to work toward developing a drug that targets the tumor-growing protein in pancreatic cancer, a type of cancer with among the lowest survival rates.

VCU’s Medicines for All partnered with a Richmond-based drugmaker, Phlow Corp., for a $354 million federal contract to rebuild the country’s drug supply. Medicines for All also created a new formula to make Merck’s COVID drug, molnupiravir, dramatically reducing its cost.

ekolenich@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6109

Twitter: @EricKolenich

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Eric Kolenich writes about higher education, health systems and more for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the newspaper in 2009 and spent 11 years in the Sports section. (804) 649-6109

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