OMRF marks 68 years of discovery and innovation

Thursday marked exactly 68 years since Oklahoma’s Secretary of State granted the charter of a new, nonprofit institute: the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

But aside from a few birthday streamers and free cupcakes in the OMRF cafeteria, August 28, 2014 looked pretty much like any other at the Oklahoma City research institute.

“It was business as usual,” says OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “Which means that our scientists were working in their labs and clinics, searching for new ways to treat and prevent disease.”

What began as a two-person operation in 1946 has grown into an internationally recognized research institute. OMRF now employs more than 400 staff members who study cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders and diseases of aging. Their discoveries have yielded more than 600 U.S. and international patents and three life-saving drugs.

“OMRF has a long track record of transforming laboratory discoveries into treatments that impact patients’ lives,” said Prescott. “It’s what sets us apart from our peers, and it’s why we exist.”
But what also distinguishes OMRF, said Prescott, are its origins.

“Most other research institutes came about from the generosity of a single benefactor,” he said. “But OMRF is the child of an entire state.”

To fund construction of OMRF, Gov. Roy J. Turner led a drive that spanned all 77 of the state’s counties. The state’s physicians organized one fundraising campaign, and pharmacists, dentists and nurses followed suit with their own efforts. When Gov. Turner declared a statewide “Research Week,” organizers held 137 meetings in 42 cities and towns during a seven-day period.

All told, 7,000 Oklahomans donated a total of $2.25 million to build laboratories and a research hospital.

Since first opening its doors, OMRF has made discoveries those first donors never could have imagined, said Prescott. “Our scientists made crucial breakthroughs in AIDS treatment, and they’ve invented new drugs to treat deadly blood infections. Today, their work is paving the way for new treatments for autoimmune disease and cancer.”

With each new discovery, Prescott urges all state residents to take pride in the foundation’s achievements. “OMRF is more than a medical research foundation,” he said. “It’s Oklahoma’s Medical Research Foundation.”