Regents: KU awarded nearly $900,000 from state in EPSCoR grants for research

photo by: Lauren Fox

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents listen as Regent Mark Hutton gives a report to the board on Jan. 15, 2020, in Topeka. From left: Helen Van Etten, Cheryl Harrison-Lee, Mark Hutton, Chair Shane Bangerter, President Blake Flanders and Bill Feuerborn

TOPEKA — The Kansas Board of Regents approved $425,000 in state funding to University of Kansas researchers on Wednesday at its January meeting.

Prior to this meeting, the board in previous years had already approved $464,599 for KU research funding in 2020, bringing the total for KU up to $889,599.

KU received the funds from the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a federal program meant to help stimulate sustainable science and technology projects in states that historically have received few federal research dollars.

Only 28 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands are eligible to participate in the EPSCoR program, according to the National Science Foundation website.

The only other state funding KU receives for research is for its cancer center at the KU Medical Center. The cancer center received $4,959,597 for 2020, according to Regents spokesman Matt Keith.

An EPSCoR review committee recommended the Kansas Board of Regents award $425,000 in fiscal year 2020 to finance proposals by three researchers. All three researchers were from KU. According to the Regents’ vice president for academic affairs, Daniel Archer, however, the three researchers from KU were the only researchers to submit proposals to the EPSCoR review committee for 2020.

Wichita State University was the only other state university to receive EPSCoR funding from the state for 2020; it received $100,000. (WSU had been awarded this funding for 2020 in a previous year.)

In fiscal year 2018, the board invested approximately $1 million in state funds for EPSCoR projects. These projects ended up garnering $15 million in federal and industry funds.

The three researchers whose proposals were awarded funding Wednesday at the Regents meeting are as follows:

Doug Wright, a professor and principal investigator with the KU Medical Center’s Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, was given $125,000 to use to support four grant proposals coming from the center, which would help increase the proposals’ competitiveness for National Institutes of Health funding.

Erik Lundquist, a professor of molecular biosciences who is the co-principal investigator of the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways, received $100,000 in support of new research projects. The board recommended that he receive $100,000 each year for the next three years.

Kevin Leonard, an associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and research faculty at the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, was awarded $200,000 in support of a project designed to apply data science and machine learning to the field of catalysis.

Other news from the meeting:

• The board approved an amendment to state university policies on alcohol, clarifying that alcohol may be sold in nonclassroom areas designated by the university CEO. It also prohibits universities from selling or distributing cereal malt beverages on campus. Cereal malt beverages contain less than 3.2% alcohol by weight, and the board has decided to make this change because they consider cereal malt beverages somewhat “obsolete,” since many retailers have stopped selling them in favor of full-strength beer.

• KU Medical Center will rename its Hoglund Brain Imaging Center the Hoglund Biomedical Imaging Center to account for the fact that the center has expanded its focus from the brain and central nervous system. The center also focuses on the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs, as well as cancer research and medical device development.


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