Armed with an endowment that could surpass $2 billion, Bill Neaves, president and chief executive of the fledgling Stowers Institute for Medical Research, foresees a time when the Kansas City area is called "Biomed Valley."
But that dream won't become a reality without Kansas University, he said.
Neaves has a 600,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art research complex on a 10-acre campus in Kansas City, Mo. Now he needs to fill it with scientists to conduct groundbreaking research on diseases and cures.
"The University of Kansas Medical School is crucially important in realizing the Biomed Valley dream," Neaves said recently. "Kansas has no other medical school, and the KU Medical School is poised to take its rightful place among the nation's research-intensive medical schools."
Under an agreement, KU and Stowers Institute will share faculty and exchange data and work together to try and win federal research grants and contracts. Some scientists at Stowers will receive faculty appointments at KU.
Officials at both institutions say the agreement is a win-win proposition to attract the best and brightest scientists and move their research to the Kansas City area.
"We see nothing but growing cooperation between the two institutions as the relationship grows," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said.
It has already paid dividends. Stowers officials said KU's help was critical in the institute being able to recruit Kent Golic, a geneticist at the University of Utah who has been at the forefront of research on the function of genes in cellular and molecular processes of life.
Neaves said without being able to make Golic a professor at KU, he wouldn't have come to Stowers.
And recruitment continues for more scientists.
So far, Neaves said, the Stowers Institute has received about $600 million from the financial fortunes of Jim and Virginia Stowers, both cancer survivors who want to build a world-class medical research facility. There also is the possibility of receiving more than $1.5 billion more from the Stowers, Neaves said.
But even with that funding, the institute cannot achieve its goals "without a strong partnership with public research institutions supported generously by their respective states," he said.
Neaves is the former chief academic officer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
During his 28 years at the center, it grew into an internationally known research powerhouse that produced four Nobel Laureates, the development of significant medicines and substantial increases in grants and intellectual property.
Neaves said the same thing could happen here.
The relationship between Stowers and KU, he said, should be mutually beneficial, similar to one between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and UT Southwestern.
"A critical mass of scientific colleagues and collaborators at Kansas and Missouri research institutions is essential to the success of the efforts under way at the Kansas City campus of the Stowers Institute," he said.
The Stowers Institute and the Med Center are part of an initiative to make the Kansas City area a hub of scientific activity in research of the human genome.
Aside from KU, other partners in the initiative include the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Children's Mercy Hospital, Mid-America Heart Institute and the Midwest Research Institute.