Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Pharmacy (COP) is ranked No. 3 among private colleges in obtaining grant research funding, according to a recently-released report from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

COP reported about $1.9 million in grants for the government’s fiscal calendar ending Sept. 30, 2014, ranking it third among private colleges of pharmacy in the U.S., behind only the University of Southern California and Northeastern University. COP ranks No. 6 in National Institutes of Health grants. There are 135 schools and colleges of pharmacy, including 69 private institutions and 66 publicly-supported institutions.

“Research is an important part of faculty activities, so it’s always been our goal to increase research productivity. We’ve invested in this program and it’s really paying off,” said COP Dean Daniel Robinson, PharmD, FASHP. “Our faculty have been very successful at submitting competitive grants. It’s really very gratifying to see how much energy and effort goes into our research programs.”

COP set a goal in its strategic plan in 2007 to reach the top 10 in research funding for private universities, Robinson said. The college has consistently climbed the ranks in recent years, from No. 17 in 2011 to No. 10 in 2012 to No. 7 in 2013.

COP has increased the size of its Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences program, which supports faculty research efforts. Now faculty members have the equivalent of 1.5 graduate students. Each year they have someone either completing the program or starting the program, so there is overlap where a more seasoned student can help train a newer student.

Robinson also offered for the college to pay for half of a post-doctoral position if a faculty member writes the other half of the funding into the grant application.

“It’s a nice incentive,” he said. “Most of our funded faculty have a postdoc who can work unencumbered and spend most of their energy on research. They’re not part of a training program. They really are scientists helping to increase the productivity in the lab.”

WesternU provides support for research through tuition remission and stipend support, and Dean Robinson is a national leader in supporting pharmacy research, said Stephen O’Barr, PhD, Chair of COP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“Dean Robinson is 100 percent behind our research efforts,” O’Barr said. “He’s been able to provide us the resources required to become nationally competitive.”

Research funding levels from government and non-government agencies are decreasing, and simply maintaining funding levels is becoming more difficult, even on the largest research campuses, O’Barr said.

“To show sustained increases in funding is significant for an academic unit in the current environment,” he said. “Underlying this success is our department’s commitment to interprofessional collaborations within, and outside of, the university.”

In the past two years, the department’s grant expenditures have increased 90 percent, along with steady increases in the number of its publications and abstracts.

“The College of Pharmacy’s transition to gaining a national reputation for research will continue to attract high-quality students and faculty,” O’Barr said.