Saturday Column: KU should explore medical research opportunity

November 9, 2013


Last week, residents of Kansas City’s Jackson County rejected a proposal to boost medical research with $800 million in new taxpayer funds. The plan was to OK a half-cent, 20-year sales tax to fund “translational research” at two private hospitals — Children’s Mercy and St. Luke’s — and raise $40 million annually to recruit top scientists for cutting edge research at the participating hospitals and approximately $4 million to aid in economic development programs.

Jackson County voters turned down the effort by a 5-1 margin.

What is “translational medicine” or “translational research”? According to one Kansas City news story, the idea behind the effort was to fund an institute to conduct “the kind of research that might result in disease cures and profitable new drugs.” Also, such an effort, according to its boosters, would help build a Jackson County Institute for Translational Medicine that would help the local economy and enhance the area’s reputation as a leader in the life sciences.

It sounds like a good program, and it was backed by a powerful, influential group of Kansas City leaders. However, it was defeated.

If it was, and is, indeed a good idea that would add to the excellence of medical research in the Kansas City area and help stimulate the area’s economy, is it something officials at the Kansas University Hospital and KU Medical Center should investigate?

KU Hospital clearly is the area’s No. 1 hospital with a high national ranking. The KU School of Medicine is about to name a new dean, and Douglas Girod, the KU Medical Center’s new executive vice chancellor is a visionary leader. There is every reason to believe that under the leadership of these two individuals, the school and medical center will grow in excellence, vision and national prominence.

The combination of KU Hospital and KUMC forms a powerful research center and patient care facility.

If the “translational research” idea is a good one, and if a number of Kansas City leaders think it would be good for the city and help elevate its national reputation in medical research, is there reason for KUMC and KU Hospital officials to consider initiating a similar plan?

Certainly the KU Medical Center complex offers a superior research center and facilities in which to investigate the benefits of translational research.

The fact is KU Hospital and KUMC will continue to grow in excellence, drawing more and more attention to Kansas City. There are other fine hospitals in the area with Children’s Mercy Hospital enjoying a strong national reputation. However, the KU Medical Center will serve as the area’s backbone for medical excellence, research, innovation and vision in the years to come. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research is a world-class operation, and officials of KUMC and Stowers should try to figure out how to utilize the strengths of each organization to provide excellent and visionary leadership in medical research.

The Jackson County election results should be studied to try to determine why the proposal was rejected by such a large majority. Was this due to the added tax burden that would be placed on Jackson County residents or was there some other reason? Was the proposal a not-too-subtle effort to provide funding for St. Luke’s Hospital, and voters didn’t like the idea of using their tax dollars to help a private hospital? Were there other reasons?

If the “translational research” idea has merit with many medical and commercial opportunities and benefits, perhaps this is something that deserves serious consideration by KU Hospital and Medical Center officials.

A well-designed network or combination of resources at KU Hospital, KU Medical Center, Children’s Mercy and the Stowers Institute would seem to have every chance of success in the field of “translational research” as well as helping to focus increased national and global attention on Kansas City and KU.


Jack Martin 4 years, 6 months ago

The University of Kansas Medical Center is a national leader in translational research. In June 2011, KUMC received a $20 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. The five-year grant puts the medical center among an elite, 60-member group of universities collaborating on clinical and translational research, which transforms laboratory discoveries into treatments and cures.

This grant was used to create Frontiers: The Heartland Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. It is working with more than two dozen partners in the region to speed the delivery of discoveries to patients.

You can learn more about Frontiers here: http://frontiersresearch.org/frontiers/

See the list of partners here: http://frontiersresearch.org/frontiers/our-partners

And read about the grant here: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/jun...

Julius Nolan 4 years, 6 months ago

From what I've read since coming to Lawrence, it seems the J-W Saturday columnist will always attack KU and anything they do that he doesn't suggest first. Why is he so adamant that only he knows what they should do? He's not an elected member of any governmental body. Not an appointed member of any governmental board. What makes him so sure he has a clue as to what to do? What is the current status of his publishing empire? Apparently rapidly falling apart.

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