Champion: Dr. Patrick James, Sr. Managing Director, Quest Diagnostics; Chair, KC Area Life Sciences Institute

The overarching goal is to make KC a nationally-recognized center for translational research. Translational research is the hot new area in the life sciences. It means moving discoveries from the laboratory bench to the patient, from “bench to bedside,” as many describe it, translating research discoveries to the treatment of serious disease.

This “Big 5” goal was an obvious choice given the community’s existing investment in this area. It began in 1994 when Jim and Virginia Stowers’ announced their intention to build an institute focused on medical research in Kansas City. Today, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research is the second-largest medical research organization in the country, thanks to the Stowers’ $2 billion endowment.

Their gift put a spotlight on the Kansas City region’s life sciences and caused the region to develop a strategy to focus on that sector.

Champion Dr. James says, in the near term, there are three main components to this Big 5 initiative. First is the University of Kansas Medical Center’s application, with their partners, for designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center. That process is well on its way — the application was submitted in September 2011 with a site visit in February and a decision expected in the 2nd quarter of 2012.

The second component involves leveraging the $20 million National Institute of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) grant awarded last year to KU Med Center and their 3 academic, 10 health system, and 15 community partners in the region (see the list below). The five year goal is to raise an additional $40 million to grow what’s already planned and expand the effort.

Third, Dr. James says, is creating a regional Translational Research Institute. Dr. James says there’s been a great deal of discussion — both in the community and among those involved in the life sciences — about creating a regional Translational Research Institute, to be housed in its own building, to grow the regional effort even more beyond the CTSA grant. Such an Institute is envisioned as phase two of the Translational Medicine Initiative. Efforts are underway to determine the feasibility and explore potential funding sources for such an Institute.

One of the challenges is simplifying and clarifying the message about what translational research is and what it means to the community. The overarching goal is to make KC a nationally-recognized center for translational research, with a significant impact on patients and the economy in the Greater Kansas City region.

“This could be transformative,” Dr. James says. “It’s a force for further economic collaboration…and an engine for economic growth that will touch all parts of our regional economy.”

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