At its board meeting yesterday, the Presbyterian Health Foundation approved a $500,000 grant to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. The award will provide start-up funds for a new OMRF scientist, Dario Ramirez, Ph.D., who will join OMRF from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this winter.
“We are extremely fortunate that the Presbyterian Health Foundation has, once again, played a leadership role in building bioscience in Oklahoma,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “OMRF is delighted to partner with the Presbyterian Health Foundation in bringing another national-caliber researcher to our state.”
Ramirez holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and an M.S. in immunology, and he has spent six years as a scientist at the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health in Research Triangle Park, NC. Currently, he holds the title of senior research fellow at the NIH.
Ramirez’s research focuses on environmental stressors and chronic inflammation, particularly in the lungs. His expertise will help OMRF build new research strength in the field of molecular medicine, an emerging discipline that focuses on translating discoveries at the molecular level into new methods of diagnosing and treating disease.
“Molecular medicine will play a key role in a new era of personalized medicine, one in which therapies are tailored to patients’ individual gene maps,” said Presbyterian Health Foundation President Michael Anderson, Ph.D. “This $500,000 grant will develop new opportunities at OMRF and in Oklahoma, and we expect that researchers trained in molecular medicine will be able to develop and use novel gene- and cell-based therapeutics to treat life-threatening diseases.”
Already, Ramirez has developed a new method of measuring the effectiveness of certain medications (technically known as antioxidant medications) in a variety of human diseases. He utilizes this technique to assess medications in a wide spectrum of disease areas, including cardiovascular biology, cancer, arthritis, immunology and any condition involving inflammation.
He is one of only three scientists in the U.S. who holds an “NIH Pathway for Independence Award,” a competitive grant that he won following a nationwide competition involving hundreds of researchers. This grant will provide $750,000 to fund his research over a three-year period.
The $500,000 grant from the Presbyterian Health Foundation will be used to help Ramirez establish his laboratory at OMRF, to purchase scientific equipment and supplies, and to hire technical staff and post-doctoral researchers.
“Dr. Ramirez is precisely the type of researcher OMRF and Oklahoma City need if we are to translate basic discoveries into diagnostics and therapeutics to improve human health,” said OMRF President Prescott. “With the ability to collaborate with dozens of other scientists in a variety of fields, he can help increase the competitive metabolism of bioscience throughout the Oklahoma Health Center.”
OMRF 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 and brain diseases, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.