July 22, 2006

UMKC Eyes Research Institute: School is Seeking Up to $25 Million in Federal Funding.

By Jason Gertzen, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

Jul. 22--"This will be a major effort in the life sciences for us."

Guy Bailey, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has a new multimillion-dollar effort to push more discoveries out of the laboratory to patients' bedsides.

Leaders are seeking up to $25 million in federal funding, recruiting nine top researchers and seeking community partners for a new Institute for Translational Research, said Guy Bailey, UMKC's chancellor.

"This will be a major effort in the life sciences for us," Bailey said at an MU Board of Curators meeting in Kansas City.

The announcement of the institute came after six months of work in response to a report issued late last year focusing on the region's opportunities and challenges in the life sciences. The "Time to Get It Right" report commissioned by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation noted that the UMKC medical school had an extremely limited research program and that UMKC overall largely has missed out on massive federal funding for research.

By focusing on key areas of expertise such as bone biology, shock trauma and health outcomes, university leaders intend to energize their research programs, Bailey said.

UMKC ranked 183rd among U.S. universities in 2003 with its research spending of $31.1 million, according to the National Science Foundation. University researchers, however, have been enjoying some success in expanding their efforts, as research spending jumped 58 percent from 2000 to 2003.

Many details about how the institute specifically will be structured and operated have not been determined.

University officials have applied for a $150,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for planning the initiative. They also intend to seek about $5 million in annual federal government funding for five years to help run the institute, Bailey said.

The university is committed to the program even if it does not obtain the federal funding, a spokeswoman said.

UMKC has an important role to play in the region's heightened focus on tapping the life sciences for an economic boost, Elson Floyd, president of the MU system, said.

As part of the announcement of the institute, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver reported progress in providing federal backing to a UMKC research program. The U.S. House has approved $1 million for UMKC's Bone and Tissue Repair and Regeneration Consortium, and the Senate is expected to act later this month, Cleaver said.

This grant would be in addition to $1 million in federal money provided earlier to start the university's Orthopedic Trauma Research Center.

University officials expect the institute to partner with local hospitals such as Children's Mercy Hospital s and Clinics, St. Luke's Hospital and Truman Medical Centers.

The UMKC announcement was greeted with optimism by others working to enhance the region's life science assets.

The "Time to Get It Right" report emphasized the importance of finding more effective ways of moving basic research innovations to the market in the form of commercial products or new medical treatments, said Keith Gary, director of program development for the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.

"That is exactly what translational research is all about," Gary said.

To reach Jason Gertzen, call (816) 234-4899 or send e-mail to [email protected]


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