Longtime Kansas University faculty member Gunda Georg - a poster child for KU's cancer research efforts - is leaving her post to join the University of Minnesota.
News of her departure comes as KU strives to be a national leader in cancer research.
"Clearly we will miss Gunda," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "She's a very valuable person and very valuable researcher. ... We're losing a top researcher, but we have many other top researchers here working on the cancer project."
Georg, a distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry, will be chairwoman of Minnesota's department of medicinal chemistry. She also will hold two endowed positions: the Robert Vince Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and a McKnight Distinguished Professorship.
Georg has been at KU since 1984. She also serves as director of the Center for Cancer Experimental Therapeutics at the Masonic Cancer Research Institute.
She has led a National Institutes of Health Center for Biomedical Research Excellence program that has brought millions of dollars in grants to the university to mentor researchers and support cancer research.
Georg and researchers received about $10 million in a five-year grant in 2000 from the National Institutes of Health. Those funds were leveraged to bring in more than $30 million to the university. And the grant was recently renewed.
Those funds will remain at KU, university spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said.
Georg also was awarded $7.9 million to develop an oral contraceptive for men, which temporarily stops male fertility. Remaining National Institutes of Health funds from that grant will follow Georg to her next position, Bretz said.
Roy Jensen, director of the Masonic Cancer Research Institute, was out of town and unavailable for comment. Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor and dean of the medical school, also could not be reached for comment.
"While Gunda's departure is a point of reflection for all of us, it also reminds us that we need to redouble our efforts to continue to be competitive," said David Adkins, KU Medical Center's vice chancellor for external affairs.
KU aims to build a cancer program with federal "comprehensive cancer center" designation. Adkins said the cancer program cannot be built around any one person.
And he said KU is well-positioned to be competitive.
"When Roy Williams leaves your program, you may be concerned, yet Bill Self is waiting in the wings," Adkins said. "I'm confident that the next Bill Self is waiting to take her place."
Georg did not return calls Monday. In a statement from the university she said: "My decision to accept the offer from the University of Minnesota has been an extremely difficult one because I have been very happy at the University of Kansas and have many good friends and research collaborators here ... I could not turn down the opportunity at Minnesota, which, due to a patent infringement settlement, has unprecedented resources at its disposal."
Georg's salary at Minnesota was not available Monday, said Sara Buss, a Minnesota spokeswoman.
Hemenway said in a statement that KU had made a significant counteroffer to Minnesota's in an attempt to keep Georg. He said KU understands Georg's decision.