With a 14-to-1 return on investment, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center has a significant financial impact statewide, its director, Dr. Ed Partridge, explained.
There are 40 different labs in the Wallace Tumor Institute alone, and every one “is really a small business,” Partridge said. The principal investigator is the CEO, the postdocs and the lab tech are the staff, and “UAB is the serial angel investor,” he explained, using the term for a person who provides startup capital for a new business.
The NCI core grant “funds the shared facilities and administration that sets the research strategy,” Partridge said. “Then with philanthropic dollars we recruit new investigators and invest in new science. When you attract high-caliber faculty and researchers, the impact trickles down to the community.
“Our recruits buy homes and settle their families here; but they also support the scientific workforce, for example, by hiring supply and equipment vendors, contractors and laborers for the construction and renovation of laboratory facilities, as well as administrators and managers who support the research infrastructure.”
The average budget for UAB’s cancer research labs is about $1.5 million per year, much of which reaches the surrounding community, Partridge said.
In addition to salaries, researchers constantly purchase supplies and equipment, much of it from local firms. In the same way that the Honda and Mercedes plants in Alabama have brought in a host of satellite businesses to serve their needs, UAB’s research engine powers many ancillary companies, Partridge noted. “It truly is a catalyst for economic growth.”