Archive for Saturday, August 15, 1998

KU ATTRACTS MORE THAN $100 MILLION FOR RESEARCH

August 15, 1998

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The Kansas University Medical Center expects to secure about $50 million in grants each year to support research on a wide range of health mysteries.

Kansas University Medical Center landed a National Institutes of Health grant that will channel $7.6 million into stroke rehabilitation research during the next five years.

This Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center grant is the largest from the NIH in medical center history. KUMC's Center on Aging, coordinator of the research program, competed against 10 applicants for the award.

``This grant is an example of the wonderful things that can be achieved when the university and the community work together,'' said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, director of KUMC's Center on Aging.

Studenski said five schools, 12 departments and a network of community hospitals collaborated to secure this funding.

When the final accounting is completed for the 1997-98 year, the Pepper grant is expected to push Medical Center research funding near record levels. The same result could occur in 1998-99, but it's far too early to tell.

`Holding our own'

An increase would be significant because government grants for university research have been increasingly difficult to acquire.

``We've been holding our own, despite funding getting tighter,'' said Vickie Eaton, director of research at KUMC.

External support for research programs at KU Medical Center climbed to a record $47.2 million in 1996-97, an increase of 14.5 percent from the previous year.

Dr. Donald Hagen, KUMC executive vice chancellor, said research conducted at the Medical Center and other academic health facilities was significant to the nation's health.

``Vital because they are the sites for important discoveries in biomedical research and the development of better, more efficient diagnostic and health care techniques,'' he said.

Goal within reach

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said research on the university's campuses in Lawrence, Wichita and Kansas City, Kan., now exceeded $100 million annually.

The goal of $120 million annually by the year 2000 is within reach, he said. The chancellor said universities must remain a major hub of scientific endeavor in the United States. KU faculty need to stay committed to their research and the task of acquiring funding for that work, he said.

``Research and education have become cause and effect,'' Hemenway said. ``One does research to become educated.''

That philosophy fits well with the objectives Studenski will apply to the Pepper grant.

``Stroke is the leading cause of major disability in older Americans and the leading consumer of Medicare rehabilitation services and dollars,'' she said. ``Despite the complex problems posed by strokes, stroke rehabilitation has a fragmented and incomplete scientific basis.''

By assembling a diverse group of experts with backgrounds in gerontology, rehabilitation, neurophysiology, basic science and other disciplines, Studenski believes KUMC and collaborating health facilities can break new ground on stroke rehabilitation.

Looking in the right places

Eaton, who reviews all applications for research grants at KU Medical Center, said university hospital investigators had to be more aggressive in pursuit of research funding.

NIH, which allocates $13 billion annually to researchers and is the largest funder of health studies in the United States, isn't the only place to go. Private foundations and corporations are other sources of research cash.

``We've had lot of investigators looking into nonfederal sources,'' Eaton said. ``They have to keep trying. Researchers have to be resilient. There are a lot of turn-downs. You submit, submit and submit.''

Eaton said growth in research funding in recent years had created a shortage of laboratory space on the Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kan. A pending grant application would provide money to add to an existing animal research building.

``It's a domino effect,'' she said. ``More research funding, more research space, more lab space, more animal space.''

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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