KU to renovate animal-research facility

Steve Fowler says Kansas University is about to add another weapon to its arsenal of world-class research facilities.

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, KU will remodel its animal-care facility in the basement of Malott Hall. The new space will aid in gene and protein research under way at KU.

“For an institution just hanging on the edge of being a top research university in the United States, this is a logical thing to do,” said Fowler, a KU professor who researches the effects of drugs on the neural system.

KU will receive $636,000 from the NIH for the new facility, which primarily will hold mice and rats, said George Wilson, associate vice provost for research. The KU Center for Research will kick in another $1.16 million for the project.

KU will submit its construction plans to the NIH this fall. Construction is expected to start in March or April, with the project scheduled to be completed by October.

The space will be used for “transgenic” and “block-out” procedures on mice. By adding or removing genes to and from a mouse, researchers can better understand the role for a particular gene and the proteins it produces.

“We want to know what functions a particular gene promotes,” Wilson said. “With mapping, that’s just the map. Now we need to find out what particular genes and proteins do.”

The research has applications in a variety of fields, including cancer, ALS, neuropathy and other research.

“It’s a very powerful tool for drug discovery,” Wilson said.

The renovations will include adding a better air ventilation system and decreasing the vibration in the room.

The air handling is needed because mice who are involved in these experiments are more susceptible to infection, Wilson said. The vibration reduction is needed to decrease error for measurements.

Jim Roberts, vice provost for research, said he thought the facility, combined with the recently opened Structural Biology Center and the Multidisciplinary Research Building, which is under construction, would help attract top-notch scientists to KU.

“As a recruiting tool, these things are making a big difference,” Roberts said.