Area Scientists Receive Grants For Research in Children’s Diseases
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For Release July 19, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI) today announced four regional recipients of the 2011 Research Development Grants awarded to research projects that explore the genetic basis of diseases affecting children.

The KCALSI grants are funded by the Paul Patton Charitable Trust, Bank of America, Corporate Co-Trustee.  Each recipient will receive a $50,000 grant that supports additional study on a particular research project, thus better positioning the recipients to apply for significantly larger federal grants.

“Making local funds available for research projects is a huge boost for our regional scientists,” said Dr. Dan Getman, president of KCALSI.  “The $750,000 that has been given to our 13 grantees from 2007 to 2010 has generated $5.4 million in awarded and pending federal funding for these scientists’ projects.”

A unique aspect of this year’s awards is that two of the grants support projects from colleges of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.

“These schools are doing important work looking at how animal diseases could reveal a greater understanding of the underlying genetic mechanisms of similar diseases in children,” Dr. Getman said.

The 2011 Research Development Grant recipients are:

  • Dr. Gary S. Johnson, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology, MU, who is studying “recessive cerebellar ataxia” in dogs to identify changes in DNA that cause the disease, which could lead to the development of drug or gene therapies for children suffering from the same disease.  Recessive cerebellar ataxia affects a child’s coordinated movements, similar to Parkinson’s disease in adults.
  • Dr. Philine A. Wangemann, distinguished professor in anatomy and physiology at K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, who is examining the defects of a particular gene found in both mice and humans that causes hearing loss in young children.  The project’s goal is to identify the genetic risk factors resulting in the gene defects and then develop treatments.
  • Dr. Christopher Fischer, associate professor of physics and astronomy, University of Kansas, whose project is exploring how particular enzymes affect the way DNA is folded into cells, since irregular folding can cause leukemia and extremely aggressive forms of pediatric cancers, particularly in the brain, kidneys and soft tissues.
  • Dr. Robert A. White, associate professor of biochemistry, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, who is studying a specific gene in children that, if containing a defect, may cause “hereditary spherocytosis, an hereditary anemia.  Dr. White was formerly with Children’s Mercy Hospital, which treats approximately 120 patients each year suffering from this form of anemia, which prevents red blood cells from delivering enough oxygen throughout the child’s body.

KCALSI’s Research Development Grant program has administered the Paul Patton Charitable Trust funds since 2007.  Bank of America, corporate co-trustee of the Patton funds, entrusts KCALSI to review the complex scientific grant applications and determine the four recipients whose work is most likely to make the greatest impact on pediatric research.

“KCALSI provides the necessary medical and scientific expertise that the bank’s trustees lack,” explained Spence Heddens, Bank of America’s Kansas City president.  “In addition, each grant applicant receives valuable written feedback from KCALSI’s review panel, which is unusual for this size of grant, but very helpful for future grant applications.”

The Patton Trust is just one of several funding sources for KCALSI’s Research Development Grant program.  Over the last decade, the program’s grants have helped area researchers acquire critical preliminary data necessary to support researchers’ applications for much larger federal grants in such areas as animal health, neuroscience and general medical research.

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For More Information, Contact: Dr. Keith Gary, KCALSI director of program development, (816) 753-7700.

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