For the second time in 13 months, a substantial gift from the Kerr Foundation has created a new endowed chair at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
The most recent donation will establish the Lou C. Kerr Endowed Chair in Biomedical Research. Robert S. Kerr Jr. made the gift on behalf of the Kerr Foundation in honor of his wife, for whom the chair is named.
The chair will focus primarily on researching diseases and disorders that afflict women, including heart disease (the leading cause of death in U.S. women), cancer, which strikes one in three American women, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis, whose victims are overwhelmingly female.
“The Kerr Foundation’s generosity will provide OMRF scientists with yet another means to understand and treat conditions that afflict tens of millions of women,” said Art Cotton, OMRF’s vice president for development. “We are extremely grateful for the Kerrs’ help in combating diseases that, in one way or another, touch every one of us.”
In the spring of last year, the Kerr Foundation established the Robert S. Kerr Jr. Chair in Cancer Research, which will be held by Dr. K. Mark Coggeshall, a member of OMRF’s immunobiology and cancer research program.
Although OMRF has not yet determined who will occupy the new Kerr chair, that scientist could come from a wide range of OMRF research programs.
“From cardiovascular biology to arthritis and immunology, our scientists continue to make tremendous headway against diseases and disorders that exact a tremendous toll on women and on society as a whole,” said OMRF President Dr. J. Donald Capra.
As an example, Capra cited the work of Dr. Judith James, an OMRF scientist whose research has centered on lupus. “Dr. James, along with Dr. John Harley, has identified a common virus that may be responsible for causing this disease,” said Capra. “If Drs. James and Harley can prove that this virus is the culprit behind lupus, then scientists can begin working on developing a safe vaccine for a disease that afflicts more than 1 million American women.”
In lupus, a person’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues, most commonly affecting the joints, skin, kidneys, central nervous system, heart and lungs. At present, there is no known cure for this chronic and sometimes fatal disease, which primarily strikes women in their childbearing years. Of the approximately 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with lupus, over 90 percent are women.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF is a private, nonprofit biomedical research institute. In addition to its work on cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases, it also focuses its research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, stroke, diabetes, children’s diseases and genetic disorders.