Francis Collins and Sen. Moran visit KU Medical Center

April 16, 2014

We were privileged to host two distinguished visitors to the KU Medical Center campus on Monday - U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Earlier in the day in Lawrence, Sen. Moran received the Champion of Science Award from the Science Coalition, a nonprofit organization of more than 50 of the nation's top research universities, including KU. The award recognizes members of Congress for their support of science research conducted at universities and national labs across the country. Dr. Collins attended the ceremony before traveling with Sen. Moran to Kansas City to visit our campus.

During a luncheon event at the Beller Conference Center, Dr. Collins and Sen. Moran heard from a number of our eminent scientists. It was a great opportunity for us to showcase the amazing biomedical and bioscience initiatives going on at KU Medical Center.

  • Dr. Richard Barohn, the chair of our neurology department and program director of Frontiers: The Heartland Institute for Clinical & Translational Research, talked about the advancements in translational research at KU Medical Center and our partner institutions since we were given a $20 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH in 2011.
  • Dr. Peter Smith, director of the Institute for Neurological Discoveries and co-director of the Kansas Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Center, discussed recent breakthroughs into the prevention and treatment of intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Dr. Randy Nudo, director of the Landon Center on Aging, talked about the groundbreaking research his lab is doing on repairing damaged pathways in the brain.
  • Scott Weir, director of therapeutics for the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation, discussed developing novel drug therapies and medical device innovations to patients through partnerships and collaborations.
  • Shane Stecklein, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the School of Medicine, told guests about the rapid growth of the School of Medicine's M.D/Ph.D program and about his research into the BRCA1 gene, which is responsible for some breast and ovarian cancers.

 All the research we heard about Monday afternoon is supported in some way by NIH funds. After the luncheon, Dr. Collins spoke to local news reporters about the effect that the federal budget sequestration has had on NIH funding to institutions like ours. The NIH lost $1.71 billion during sequestration and has seen a 25 percent reduction in purchasing power since 2003.

The good news is that in January, Congress passed a budget that restored about $1 billion of the NIH sequestration cuts. Dr. Collins said he is pleased about the restored funds, but he is worried that it may not be enough to reverse what many fear is America's dwindling role as the world leader in biomedical research. He said the NIH is currently only able to fund 16 percent of the grant proposals it receives every year from researchers - compared to 33 percent 10 years ago.

We are feeling the effects of NIH cuts here at KU Medical Center, and we continue to advocate for a full funding of the NIH - not only for our current researchers, but for all the young men and women in Kansas dreaming of a career in science. And as you can read in our strategic plan, we are committed to increasing our NIH funding - and moving our discoveries from the lab to the bedside even faster.

We want to congratulate Sen. Moran for his well-deserved Champion of Science Award, and our thanks go out to the senator and Dr. Collins for visiting our campus to hear about the outstanding work being done by our researchers.

Last modified: Apr 16, 2014