At its semiannual board meeting Wednesday, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation honored scientists Patrick Wilson, Ph.D., and Lijun Xia, M.D., Ph.D. The foundation also honored three long-time board members.
The board presented the Merrick Award for Outstanding Research to Xia and Wilson. Established in 1981 by Elizabeth Merrick Coe through the Merrick Foundation of Ardmore, the research prize is given annually to a junior member of the OMRF faculty whose research is flourishing. This year marked the first time the honor has been shared by two scientists.
Wilson, who holds a doctorate from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, studies the immune system. His work focuses on the mechanisms used by the immune system to combat infections. Wilson has developed an innovative new method to produce large quantities of human monoclonal antibodies in a fraction of the time—and at a fraction of the cost—previously required to produce such antibodies. This work stands to have tremendous implications on the understanding and treatment of a wide variety of infectious diseases, including influenza, HIV and hepatitis.
Xia, who joined OMRF’s scientific staff in 2002, is a cardiovascular biologist. His research centers on blood vessel development, which plays a key role in heart disease, diabetes and cancers. One of Xia’s latest findings holds great potential for the treatment of colitis and other bowel diseases.
OMRF board members Ann Alspaugh and Galen Robbins, both of Oklahoma City, and John Snodgrass of Ardmore were honored for their service on the foundation’s board. All three have served as OMRF directors for 25 years.
In addition, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor, of Muskogee, was named chair of the newly formed governance committee of the OMRF board. Malinda Berry Fischer of Stillwater was tapped to chair the development committee of OMRF’s board.
At the meeting, OMRF’s scientific advisory board also delivered its evaluation of OMRF’s Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Research Program. The board, which consists of prominent scientists from around the country, conducted a two-day evaluation of the program.
“This program is widely recognized nationally and internationally as making cutting-edge contributions to the field,” said board chair Evan Sadler, Ph.D., a professor in the department of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
Sadler praised the research climate at OMRF. “There is an excellent scientific environment here,” he said. “The institutional support OMRF provides to scientists is a unique strength of the institution.”
OMRF (omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.