KU Medical Center research excellence

May 06, 2014

It's been an exceptional couple of weeks for research news at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Last week we congratulated Joe Lutkenhaus, a University Distinguished Professor in our Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, and Immunology, on his election to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Lutkenhaus is one of the country's foremost bacterial cell researchers. In 2012, he was one of three winners of Columbia University's Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for his work to understand the intricate, dynamic, and three-dimensional organization of bacterial cells. His election to the National Academy of Sciences brings great honor to the University of Kansas and KU Medical Center. We are so proud of him!

We celebrated another research accomplishment on April 16, along with people from across Johnson County who attended a breakfast marking the five-year anniversary of the Johnson County Education Research Triangle. In 2008, Johnson County voters approved a 1/8th-cent sales tax as an investment in the future of bioscience and technology. The $15 million raised annually by the JCERT tax helps fund the KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway, the KU Edwards Campus Business, Engineering, Science and Technology Building (BEST) in Overland Park, and the Kansas State University Innovation Campus National Food and Animal Health Institute in Olathe.

When the KU Clinical Research Center opened in 2012, it became the home of several major research initiatives:

  • The University of Kansas Cancer Center's Clinical Trials Office and the Early Phase Oncology Clinical Trials Unit
  • The Midwest Cancer Alliance
  • Frontiers: The Heartland Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
  • The University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center

 It was very satisfying to tell the people of Johnson County about the outstanding work being done at the Clinical Research Center - and the ambitious goals we have set.

For example, in the two years since the Early Phase Oncology Clinical Trials Unit opened, the number of early phase clinical trials available (or soon to open) has grown from eight to 27. That means more patients are getting access to potential new cancer drugs and treatments. In the next five years, our goal is to have 40-45 open trials treating 300 cancer patients per year. The KU Clinical Research Center is also benefitting the region's economy. In addition to providing excellent jobs for educators, scientists, and other professionals, the JCERT funding base has helped us to unlock millions of dollars in private and public research funding. Our thanks to Senior Executive Director Maxine Stoltz and all of the scientists and staff who are making the Clinical Research Center such a success, and to the forward-thinking citizens of Johnson County for having such confidence in us.

(You can learn more about the JCERT accomplishments in this video)

It's a fitting time to celebrate research accomplishments as we also thank Paul Terranova, who on Sunday stepped down as vice chancellor for research, a position he has held since 2007 (he will remain senior associate dean for research and graduate education in the School of Medicine and executive director of the Research Institute until a replacement can be found). Dr. Terranova led our research enterprise during a time of phenomenal growth. In addition to dramatic increases in externally funded research and significant expansion of our research spaces, we earned a national Clinical and Translational Science Award, national Alzheimer's Disease Center designation, and National Cancer Institute designation. We increased collaboration, creating centers and institutes where teams from different disciplines came together to address particular issues in human health, and we earned distinction for our national leadership in addressing health disparities.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Terranova. And I have no doubt that Rick Barohn, who became vice chancellor for research and president of the Research Institute on Monday, will continue our legacy of, as we say in our strategic plan, "astonishing research in all areas of science."

Congratulations to everyone involved in research at KU Medical Center for a job well done.

Last modified: May 06, 2014