An anonymous donor has contributed $4 million to fund spinal cord research at Kansas University Medical Center.
The research will be led by Peter Smith, director of KUMC’s Institute for Neurological Disorders and director of the Spinal Cord Injuries Repair Program, and Randolph Nudo, director of the Landon Center on Aging.
Smith’s research focuses on stem cells and their potential to alleviate spinal cord injuries. The research involves converting cells from a patient’s skin to cells that mimic stem cells, from which neurons can be generated.
Nudo’s research uses microelectronics to develop a system that can stimulate healthy neurons above and below the injury to carry messages from the brain to other parts of the body.
The donation supports the same kind of translational research that KUMC was recognized for in a $20 million grant award from the National Institutes of Health that was announced on Tuesday.
“It really fits in very nicely,” Smith said. “The timing couldn’t be better.”
The donation will help support salary, staff, research infrastructure and other expenses for the research projects.
Private donations are often useful in providing a flexible funding source for projects the NIH might not be interested in supporting, Smith said.
“We’re seeing this sort of philanthropy-university partnership becoming much more common these days,” Smith said.
Still, he said, the donor was heavily involved in choosing the types of research to be done with the funds, and researchers will still have to meet accountability standards for the funding.
Dale Seuferling, president and CEO of the KU Endowment Association, said he’s seen donor interest in the area of supporting medical research go up recently.
“It’s certainly growing as the research productivity of the Medical Center continues to increase,” Seuferling said.