The National Institutes of Health has awarded OMRF $7.03 million to help build out three floors of it new research tower.
The funds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be used to build out lab, clinic and mechanical space for OMRF clinical investigators studying autoimmune diseases. Tower construction began in 2009 and is expected to finish by January 2011.
“This grant will allow us to significantly enhance patient-oriented programs at OMRF,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “With these funds, we’ll be able to expand our treatment and study of Oklahomans suffering from multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.”
The grant will pay for 8,200 square feet of clinical space for patient evaluation, enrollment, testing and care and 16,600 square feet of laboratory space for associated research. The lab and clinical areas can support 10 current scientists and their research teams, and the labs will open up research space for six new investigators and their research assistants.
The funds will also enable OMRF’s Clinical Immunology Research Program to build out a 3,400-square-foot cryostorage facility. The facility, which can reach temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius, will hold and protect large collections of biological samples gathered from patients and control groups.
OMRF’s Clinical Immunology Research Program focuses on translating basic research into more effective treatments for autoimmune disorders, which affect an estimated 31 million Americans. The program is led by Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., a native of Pond Creek, Okla., who holds the Lou C. Kerr Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF.
“Oklahomans have been so generous to OMRF, not only giving us funds, but also through participating in our clinical research,” said James. “Many individuals allow us to save their samples, so investigators here and around the world can work to solve these diseases. This cryostorage facility will be instrumental in extending the gifts from volunteers to aid autoimmune disease research for future generations.”
When complete, the research tower will add 186,000 square feet of laboratory, clinical and administrative space to OMRF’s Oklahoma City campus. With 34 new laboratories, the expansion will allow OMRF to add 300 additional employees to its staff.
With this construction grant, OMRF has now received more than $22 million in stimulus funding through the National Institutes of Health. All of the grants were awarded following a nationwide competition open to universities and medical research institutes throughout the U.S.
OMRF was one of more than 1,200 institutions nationwide to apply for construction funding through this initiative, which was coordinated by the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health. The Center awarded a total of $1 billion in construction grants—less than 10 percent of the $10.6 billion it received in grant applications.
“This award once again confirms that Dr. Judith James and her colleagues have established OMRF as a national center of excellence in immunology,” he said. “And it represents another big step toward establishing Oklahoma as the research capital of the Plains.”