A $20.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund research at Kansas University is exciting news.
Not only is the grant the largest single federal research award ever made in Kansas, it puts the university and the state at the forefront of important research that could lead to advances in human health and fighting disease. It also provides an important base from which Lawrence and KU can build to attract future research and business ventures in the biosciences.
KU will be among nine institutions seeking to identify and learn more about small molecules and how they function. According to an NIH news release, the network will screen more than 300,000 small molecules, seeking to unlock information that leads to new drugs and therapies to treat a variety of diseases.
It's all part of the current focus on complex genomics research, and it's a tremendous accomplishment for KU to be chosen, along with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, as a "specialized chemistry center" for the new research network.
The NIH grant will lead to the creation of 20 new jobs for scientists at KU, as well as providing a welcome injection of federal dollars into the Lawrence economy. Perhaps even more important, however, is the opportunity it gives KU and Lawrence to use the work being done here as a springboard for other research and business ventures. The grant lends prestige and credibility to all of the network partners, which should open many doors for future collaboration among partners or with other researchers.
KU officials noted during Monday's announcement that the university's researchers generated $193 million in funding last year and that 85 percent of all NIH funding in Kansas goes to KU. The work done by KU researchers is a boon for the local economy and also for everyone who benefits from their findings in medicine and other fields.
KU has a long and distinguished record in the area of chemistry and biochemistry. The late Takeru Higuchi, who was a distinguished professor of biochemistry and founder of Oread Laboratories, certainly would be proud of the way recent faculty members have built on his legacy and that of the chemistry department.
The university is justifiably proud of attracting the NIH grant. Lawrence and the rest of Kansas should share in that pride and appreciate KU's accomplishment.