Foundation Offers Multimillion-Dollar Grants for Genetics Research, Center

THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

Foundation Offers Multimillion-Dollar Grants for Genetics Research, Center


OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) -- The Presbyterian Health Foundation announced on Monday what may become the largest single grant in the foundation's history.

The grant includes a multi-year gift of $2 million to fund genetics research at The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and an additional $5 million for partial funding of the new Stanton L. Young Research Center at the OU Health Sciences Center.

The research grant represents the first two years of a requested five-year, $10 million commitment. The money is to increase Oklahoma's infrastructure in genetics research, thus helping the state attract a more proportionate share of national biomedical research funding while developing a healthy intellectual property pipeline.

When fully funded, the gifts are projected to attract in the range of $10 million per year in grant support from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.

"With this grant, the Presbyterian Health Foundation continues its support for a biomedical research presence that will drive economic development in Oklahoma," said Jean Gumerson, foundation president emeritus.

Support for medical research is one of the core components of the foundation's mission.

"For us to be able to invest in programs to attract world-class researchers, provide facilities, and position these organizations for future investments from other groups represents the absolute best use of our resources," she said. "It offers scientists with like interests and the need for common technologies the means to come together around those interests and technologies."

Joseph J. Ferretti, senior vice president of the University of Okla-homa and OUHSC provost, said the Presbyterian Health Foundation has funded $60 million for research, faculty and facilities over the last 12 years.

"They have been the real engine, the force that has allowed us to grow," Ferretti said. "There is only so much that can be done with public funding, and I cannot imagine where we would be without their ongoing support."

J. Donald Capra, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, said the grant is an investment in Oklahoma's future.

"Both from a health care and an economic perspective, genetics research is absolutely crucial," Capra said. "Thanks to Presbyterian Health Foundation's extraordinary generosity and foresight, OMRF and OUHSC can work together to strengthen Oklahoma's scientific infrastructure."

Ferretti said that genome studies are revolutionizing the fields of diagnostics, therapeutics and drug discovery.

"Both OUHSC and OMRF have invested significantly in their established genetics programs and facilities, but they do not have the critical mass of research expertise deemed necessary by national grant makers for the most viable genetics research operations," he said. "This grant will allow us to unify and expand these efforts into a collaborative, nationally recognized program."

Capra said that Oklahoma scientists are already doing top-notch genetics research.

"The problem is that we just that we don't have enough people working in this rapidly emerging field," he said. "Hopefully, this seed money will help the state attract some of the rising stars of genetics research. And where the best minds go, biomedical breakthroughs and economic development will inevitably follow."

More than 30 senior faculty members at the Health Sciences Center have research activities in genetics and almost one-third of OMRF's research grants are focused in or relate to genetic research. These research programs cover a broad range of studies ranging from breast cancer, arthritis, lupus and pancreatic cancer to genomics and the special genetic characteristics of Native Americans.

OMRF is home to the Native American Genetics Institute and the Donald W. …

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