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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

KU medical school pushes $800M life science initiative

August 11, 2007

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Kansas University officials say their 10-year plan for KU's medical school is what is needed to lift the school to the "next level."

The proposal - raising $800 million, hiring 244 researchers, more than doubling research space at the Kansas City, Kan., campus and quadrupling research grants - follows significant growth over the past 10 years.

"It's a high-growth strategy that comes on top of some high growth," said KU Medical Center spokeswoman Amy Jordan Wooden.

For example, KUMC received $47 million research grants in 1997. In 10 years, the school has increased that to $89 million - nearly double. But in 10 years, KUMC wants to get research grants totaling $340 million.

"This is what we think the roadmap should look like in the next 10 years," she said.

KUMC currently has 686,000 square feet of space, but says by hiring 152 senior faculty and 92 junior faculty over the next 10 years, it will need an additional 862,500 square feet of space.

That would be equal to four new buildings the size of the new $57.2 million Kansas Life Sciences Innovation Center, which opened this year.

KU officials say growth at the medical center would help anchor a regionwide improvement in life sciences research by partnering with other hospitals and the private Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

"Regional greatness is within our reach, but it can't be achieved without a world-class regional medical center," said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of KUMC.

Atkinson said the plan will not only provide better health care for Kansans, but it will help the state's economy.

Currently, KUMC ranks 81st out of 125 medicals in National Institutes of Health funding. That $45 million in NIH funding last year had an economic impact of $1.3 billion statewide, she said.

By comparison, Iowa University's medical school ranked 30th in NIH funding with $137 million and an economic impact of $4.1 billion.

The plan, however, has met some resistance in the Legislature.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, has said he believes the growth program would benefit Missouri more than Kansas.

"I want a lot more emphasis statewide," he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said she is encouraged by KU's efforts to grow.

"Governor Sebelius is encouraged by the vision and strategy outlined by KU Med Center and welcomes further discussion on how best to reach those goals," her spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.

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