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Senators Moran and Blunt welcome NIH’s Dr. Rutter to KU Medical Center to visit the clinical and translational science institute, Frontiers

Along with leaders from Frontiers, Children’s Mercy Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, the group discussed how to adapt or “translate” medical research into useful treatments for patients.

Joni Rutter, Ph.D., Senator Roy Blunt, and Senator Jerry Moran
Joni L. Rutter, Ph.D., Senator Roy Blunt, and Senator Jerry Moran

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri welcomed  Joni L. Rutter, Ph.D., acting director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), today to discuss the future of clinical and translational science. They also met with key leaders in government and health care and toured facilities established by a $25 million grant from NCATS, the Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Along with leaders from Frontiers, Children’s Mercy Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, the group discussed how to adapt or “translate” medical research into useful treatments for patients.

“Through funding from NCATS, Frontiers is accelerating the translation of science in the Midwest,” said Mario Castro, M.D., MPH, principal investigator for Frontiers. “We’re thrilled to have Dr. Rutter and her team visit our region and honored that Senators Blunt and Moran could see how Frontiers is transforming clinical and translational research in our area.”

Rutter, a Kansas native, said the overarching problem NCATS is working to solve is the lack of treatments and cures for people who need them. “The NCATS vision is to bring more treatments to more people more efficiently, and translational science is our superpower,” Rutter said at a presentation today at KU Medical Center. “The whole idea is to build trust and to nurture relationships, so that we can move forward together. Translational science is team science, and that's going to be what allows us to bring more treatments to all people more quickly.”

NCATS is one of the 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health. Its main goal is to bridge the gap between research findings and treatments for patients based on that research. In 2018, NCATS awarded Frontiers a five-year, $25 million grant for translational science. At that time, it was the second-largest grant in the university’s history.

Castro said Frontiers’ work has the capacity to improve the health of both Kansans and Missourians, especially in underserved populations and in rural areas. “We need to expand this support to transform our region’s biomedical research, expand our workforce and improve dissemination of high-quality health care in our region,” Castro said.

Sen. Moran, who met Rutter for the first time today, said he was looking forward to building a strong working relationship with her and NCATS. “For certainly as long as I've been in the Senate, but it predates that in the House of Representatives, we've tried to find ways in which we can be helpful to NIH, and you have a very important role. We want to be your ally and friend to see the good things happen at NIH and in the in the center that you lead,” he said. “We welcome a fellow Jayhawk, fellow Kansan and someone who is making a tremendous difference in the world.”

Sen. Blunt reflected on the value of accelerated research in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “Today, I visited KU Medical Center with Sen. Moran. During our discussion we spoke about how the NIH’s RADx initiative – which expedited the development of quick, accurate COVID tests – created an innovative approach to medical research that we can apply to other health challenges,” he said.

Frontiers is part of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program, a network of more than 50 medical research institutions— called hubs ―  nationwide that work to improve the translational research process.  Though administratively a part of the University of Kansas, Frontiers’ partners include Children’s Mercy, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, St. Luke’s, Kansas City University and Kansas State University. Under NCATS’ leadership, the CTSA Program’s hubs work together to improve the translational research process to get more treatments to more patients more quickly. The hubs collaborate locally and regionally to catalyze innovation in training, research tools and processes.

J. Steven Leeder, Pharm.D., Ph.D., associate chair for research in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy and deputy director of its research institute for precision therapeutics, said he was looking forward to Frontiers’ future.

“At Children’s Mercy, we are excited about the opportunity to increase our commitment to Frontiers and to engage more fully with KU Medical Center and the other Frontiers partner institutions to accelerate new treatments for patients of all ages in our region and beyond,” said Leeder.

Frontiers offers four spaces where researchers have staff and equipment to conduct their research. These spaces are called clinical and translational science units (CTSUs) and are located in Fairway, Kansas; Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Kansas; and at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri.

More information on NCATS

More information on Frontiers

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