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Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

KU Med called on to boost research

Higher education report touts facility’s potential to lead region in life science studies

October 20, 2005

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More money should be pumped into Kansas University Medical Center to build the region's life sciences research capacity, according to a report released Wednesday by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

A task force, led by former Yale University president Benno Schmidt Jr., compiled the report after studying higher education in the Kansas City area.

The study was supported by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and other foundations, including the Kauffman Foundation.

The report offered a strategic plan for life sciences and higher education in the Kansas City region. It proposed quadrupling spending on life sciences research and development to $800 million annually.

It called for a two-state strategy to strengthen higher education. The report's authors voiced support for KU's pursuit of the coveted cancer center designation from the federal government. And they pressed the University of Missouri-Kansas City to focus on becoming a world-class urban university.

KU officials heralded the report's findings.

"It was gratifying to see the respect that the authors of the report have for the University of Kansas," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said.

Barbara Atkinson, KU Medical Center's executive vice chancellor, said the report helps KU Med Center, which at times struggles to get noticed in the Kansas City region.

"It's been harder and harder to tell the story about what we've been doing in research," Atkinson said. "We have a lot of momentum. This gives us an opportunity to just move ahead into a real transformational growth phase."

Most top UMKC officials could not be reached for comment. Robert W. Piepho, dean of the school of pharmacy, said he had not yet read the report and could not comment.

The report was a bit critical of UMKC, calling its Ph.D. program "small and unusual" for its concentration on interdisciplinary studies.

The report's authors also concluded that "the university has the culture more of a coalition of entities than a unified institution."

It also said that UMKC has not had the robust strategy, continuity of leadership or investment to create a world-class research university, and it pressed the institution to continue its engagement with the region.

The report proposed the creation of a center for "translational research" to move scientific discoveries into the marketplace and for the creation of the Kansas City Institute for Advanced Studies for a new type of partnership with other institutions, hospitals and private enterprise.

The report called on increased private and public support. It said civic leaders should create "deep-pocket" political action committees to support higher education. And it suggested swaying the states' congressional delegations to support a 10-year life sciences and medicine strategy by targeting federal earmarks in higher education, a move that the report says could bring $250 million to $300 million in federal funds.

The task force included James Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan; Sara Martinez Tucker, president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund; and Kurt Schmoke, dean of the Howard University law school in Washington, D.C.

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation distributed $100 million in grants in 2004 and received $130 million in contributions.

Laura McKnight, incoming president of the foundation, said the report adds a sense of urgency to the current effort to make Kansas City a major center for life science research.

"This now gives us a road map to be a real player in the global knowledge economy," she said.

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