OMRF honors scientists, long-time director

At its spring board meeting and honors presentation Thursday, OMRF presented Kathy Sivils, Ph.D., with the Edward L. and Thelma Gaylord Prize for Scientific Achievement. OMRF also honored three other researchers and presented Frank McPherson of Oklahoma City with its Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award.

Kathy Sivils, Ph.D.,became the 17th scientist in OMRF history to receive the Gaylord Prize, OMRF’s highest scientific honor. Christy Everest, who serves on OMRF’s board, presented the award, which is named for her late parents: Edward L. Gaylord, who served on OMRF’s board for 30 years, and his wife, Thelma.

A native of Bartlesville, Sivils received the award for her pioneering work on Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Last year, she led an international coalition of researchers that identified six new genes related to the illness, in which the immune system becomes confused and turns against the body’s moisture-producing glands, damaging the ability to produce saliva or tears.

“Dr. Sivils has been instrumental in helping to shed light on a disease that, until recently, has been poorly understood and too often neglected,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “Her work has brought new hope to those who suffer from this illness and, in the process, has helped establish OMRF as one of the world leaders in Sjögren’s research.”

OMRF board chair Len Cason presented the Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award to Frank McPherson. A native of Stillwell and former CEO and chairman of Kerr-McGee, McPherson joined OMRF’s board in 1991.

In the 23 years since, McPherson has served on the board’s human relations, finance and audit, and executive committees. Most recently, he chaired the board’s development committee and helped lead the Discoveries Campaign, which has raised nearly $100 million to support the largest campus expansion in OMRF’s 68-year history.

Also at the meeting, OMRF presented the following awards to foundation researchers:

Hong Chen, Ph.D., received the Merrick Award for Outstanding Research. She focuses her work on epsins, a type of protein instrumental in the proper formation of new blood vessels. Chen joined the foundation in 2008, and her work at OMRF has generated 16 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and a patent for a potential therapeutic for breast cancer.

Xiao-Hong Sun, Ph.D., received the J. Donald & Patricia H. Capra Award for Scientific Achievement. Sun holds the Lew and Myra Ward Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF. Her research focuses on how immune cells are created in normal and disease-like conditions, research that holds important implications for the understanding and treatment of cancer.

Mark Coggeshall, Ph.D., received the Fred Jones Award for Scientific Achievement. Coggeshall holds the Robert S. Kerr, Jr. Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and for the last decade has dedicated his research to understanding the immune response to anthrax. His discoveries also have the potential to help treat other forms of sepsis, the blood poisoning that results from exposure to anthrax.