The biggest development in 2001 for the Kansas University School of Medicine can be summarized with one simple figure: $29.5 million.
That's how much money will be devoted to life sciences in order to help the university, and the entire Kansas City area, become a major player in biological research.
That sum will be derived from a $42 million donation to KU from the Hall Family Foundation that will be made over the next five years.
The gift, which is the largest donation ever given to a university in Kansas, will benefit four major areas: life sciences, humanities, the School of Business and the Edwards Campus in Overland Park.
Of the $29.5 million that will go toward life sciences, KU officials say $27 million will be used to help pay for a new building at the KU Medical Center; $1.5 million is earmarked for "bridging grants" that assist researchers to apply for outside grants; and $1 million is designated for two professorships, one in molecular bioscience and one in genetic and chromosome research.
"To say that we appreciate this magnificent gift is truly an understatement. For many years, the KU School of Medicine has been fortunate to have world-class scientists devoted to building a strong biomedical research program for the university and the region," said Dr. Deborah Powell, executive dean and vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the school.
Dr. Mark Meyer, associate dean for student affairs, was equally gratified at the prospect of what the donation means to the school.
The money "will be geared toward basic science research. If we have improved research funding and output, that's only going to add to the stature of the School of Medicine," Meyer said.
Plans call for a five-story, 205,000-square-foot building on the Med Center campus. It will be north of 39th Street, near the Dykes Library. The building will cost an estimated $65 million, with $21 million in equipment and furnishings. No timetable has been set for construction.
The research building will include facilities for proteomics research. The study of proteins is expected to be a major focus of drug development in the future.
"One goal of our school is to move up and be recognized as one of the leading state schools doing medical research," said Dr. Norton Greenberger, the school's senior associate dean for medical education. "You need space, money and people to do that. And to attract people, you need to have research facilities for them to operate in."
During 2001, school officials have created and refined an overarching research strategy for the school of medicine.
The purpose of this effort has been to unify the research faculty among many departments into a few broad themes, said Dr. Dale Abrahamson, chair of the department of anatomy and cell biology.
"The cornerstone of the new research vision is an emphasis on proteomics, understanding the structure of proteins at the molecular and atomic level. This is the cornerstone of our whole strategic plan," Abrahamson said.
"All of the scientists in the basic science departments will either be working directly in the field of proteomics, or using information gathered from the science of proteomics in our own research programs. This is what the future holds in terms of biological research."
The school's research vision has been designed to be an important part of the overall Kansas City Life Sciences Initiative.
The School of Medicine annually enrolls 175 students in its four-year M.D. program. Students spend their first two years the pre-clinical phase in Kansas City.
The remaining two years the clinical phase are completed at either the Med Center campus in Kansas City, Kan., or at the school's clinical branch in Wichita.
Other degrees offered by the school include a master's in public health, a master's in health policy management and an M.D./Ph.D. degree.
What is it like to attend the KU School of Medicine?
Graduate student Julie Carlsten is working toward her doctorate and has been at the school for three years. She works in the lab of Dr. Doug Wright, an assistant professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology, studying complications of diabetes, such as nerve damage.
The Joplin, Mo., native did her undergraduate work in biology and chemistry at Drury College in Springfield, Mo.
"I wanted to stay in the area, in the Midwest, and I had a professor at Drury who had gotten his Ph.D. here, and that was a big influence," she said.
Carlsten is pleased with the choice she made.
"I've been able to work in the lab and get hands-on experience," she said. "And there's a lot of interaction between the schools (at the Med Center), a lot of different seminars and campus activities. Graduate students aren't always together, so you get to see fresh faces every so often."