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Native Medicinal Plant Research Program receives Strategic Initiative Grant

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LAWRENCE — One outcome of the Bold Aspirations strategic plan at the University of Kansas was the creation of a Strategic Initiative Grant program, designed to invest in promising research projects that support the themes and goals of the plan.  Two levels of grants are available: Level I, for requests greater than $50,000, and Level II, for requests less than $50,000.

During its first year, the program has already committed more than $1.5 million to multidisciplinary proposals involving autism research, the integration of art and science, the forecasting of threats to public health, the development of a spinal fusion implant and translational research that improves the quality of long life for older adults.

The latest Strategic Initiative Grant, announced today, provides three years of support for the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program. The grant allows a team of researchers to continue efforts aimed at discovering and commercializing plant-based drugs and other therapies for the prevention and treatment of several forms of cancer.

Barbara Timmermann, a university distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, is the lead researcher on the grant. She is joined by Kelly Kindscher, professor in the Environmental Studies Program and senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey.

“Bio-based manufacturing processes could hold the key to discovery for a promising new drug from native plants,” said Timmermann. “This project has the potential to lead to future clinical trials for patients to determine the effectiveness of novel natural products in preventing, curing or reducing the risk of a number of diseases.”

The project ties into the Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures theme of the Bold Aspirations plan. It makes use of existing faculty expertise in a variety of departments, and one of its goals is to translate the research into commercial products. The project is also concerned with the identification of high biomass medicinal plants for commercial cultivation that require less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

The proposal was reviewed by KU’s Research Investment Council, a panel of researchers chaired by Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies. The Council’s recommendation was approved by Jeff Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor.

“KU is already a national leader in this area of research and development,” said Warren, “and the research team is very well-qualified to continue the work they’ve begun. The potential upside of the project is good, as is the possibility of future funding from the National Institutes of Health or private industry.”

Deadline for submission of proposals in the third and final Strategic Initiative Grant cycle of 2012-13 is 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15.


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