University Asks Legislators to Support Research Initiative

By Rey Banks

In a recent meeting with Northern Virginia delegates, President Alan Merten called upon the legislators to provide the additional funding needed to turn Mason into a world-class research university able to compete in the high-tech and biotech industries that are the foundation of the economic future.

Under a plan that asks the commonwealth to add $5 million a year for the next five years to Mason’s current budget, the university would specifically recruit research faculty with national and international reputations to focus on cancer biology and bioengineering, neuroscience and bioengineering, and the global biosphere.

According to Merten, the university predicts its research dollars will grow to $150 million in five years, with the goal of placing Mason within the top 100 research universities in the nation. This return on investment will increase over time with the development of larger extramurally funded research programs and new grant funding sources.

Merten says a significant investment by the commonwealth will sustain the future growth of Mason’s research greatness, which will in turn generate additional regional economic growth. A recent economic impact study conducted by Stephen Fuller and the Center for Regional Analysis shows Mason’s total economic impact on the commonwealth in 2005 was $1.6 billion, with Northern Virginia receiving almost $600 million.

“Already a financial powerhouse in the region, George Mason University is poised to become a premier research facility in the world,” says Merten. “The best way to achieve this goal, from an economic standpoint, is to invest in growing Mason’s already solid base of highly regarded researchers.” Two such premier researchers are Lance Liotta and Emanuel Petricoin III, who recently joined the faculty and codirect Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (see Stalking a Killer). The two scientists addressed the delegates on current cancer biology and bioengineering research that is receiving worldwide attention.

In another step toward its goal to become a leading research university, Mason recently hired Matthew Kluger to be vice president for research. Kluger, who was vice president of research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Medical College of Georgia, will oversee the research enterprise, including research support, compliance, strategic planning, and congressional relations.