Ken Audus wasted little time starting to remedy what ails the Kansas University School of Pharmacy -- a lack of space.
Since becoming dean of the school in April, Audus has met with alumni to talk about construction of a new building for pharmacy students and researchers.
"I'm not asking for money yet," he said. "This fall will be when we're starting to make that push. I feel we have to get the momentum going now."
The timing might be good for the building, in part, because of the Kansas Economic Growth Act. The act was approved by the 2004 Legislature and aims to promote life science research and business development at state universities and in Kansas communities. Money generated by the act could help fund the pharmacy building, which likely would cost around $50 million.
KU's pharmacy operations are spread across five buildings, which are all full or nearly full.
"We're squeezing people in," Audus said.
The new building would be constructed on west campus, and Audus would like to see it completed in the next five years. It would help the school expand beyond its current size, which includes 400 undergraduates, 160 graduate students, 80 postdoctoral fellows and 45 faculty members. The school ranks 20th in the nation among pharmacy programs at public universities, and last year received the second-highest total of research funds from the National Institutes of Health, with $13.6 million.
Audus noted that there were shortages in the number of workers in every area of pharmacy. The shortages may become more prominent as the 3 billion prescriptions filled annually are expected to balloon to 4 billion by 2006.
"We can't help the national pharmacy shortage when we can't expand the size of our program," he said.
Audus, a native of South Dakota, first came to KU's Lawrence campus as a postdoctoral fellow in 1984 after graduating with a doctorate in pharmacology from the KU Medical Center. He was hired as a faculty member in 1986 and became chairman of the department of pharmaceutical chemistry in 1998.
In his newest promotion, the 49-year-old Audus replaced Jack Fincham, who had been dean for 10 years. Fincham left KU for an endowed professor position at the University of Georgia, where he started his career in academia.
Ron Borchardt, a pharmacy professor who recruited Audus to KU, said he had enjoyed watching Audus' career.
"He rose through the ranks," Borchardt said. "He went from being my postdoc to being my boss."
Audus' research, which is funded by the NIH, focuses on the way drugs pass through the placenta during pregnancy. He's developing a lab model of a placenta, with hopes of delivering drugs that mothers can take while minimizing or eliminating risks to fetuses.
He previously conducted similar research with drugs passing through the blood-brain barrier.
"He's garnered a lot of respect as a good scientist and a good collaborator," Borchardt said. "I think that's really going to help the school. He's a very down-to-earth person and an extremely well-organized person."
Audus said he had had offers to leave throughout his KU career, including from companies in the pharmaceutical industry. He said he couldn't imagine being anywhere else but KU.
"It's really the people," he said. "I've had opportunities to go but I've chosen not to. The ties I have here have grown pretty strong."