OU Health Sciences Center Major Contributor to State’s Biosciences Industry
The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) in Oklahoma City is a major contributor to the state’s biosciences industry. With seven colleges situated on one academic medical campus, as well as robust basic science, clinical and translational research programs, OUHSC is proud to conduct life-changing research that also benefits the state economically.
OUHSC has multiple areas of research expertise and an excellent framework for mentoring investigators who will carry those investigations into the future. Among the university’s areas of research excellence is the work of Jimmy Ballard, Ph.D., who also serves as chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the OU College of Medicine. Ballard studies Clostridium difficile and Bacillus anthracis, pathogens that cause devastating infections. Ballard has received significant federal funding to study the pathogenesis of C. difficile and the role of the newer hypervirulent strain in Clostridium difficile-associated disease. Identification of key antigenic regions of C. difficile Toxin B is the basis of new therapeutic and vaccine intervention strategies.
Other areas of excellence on campus include geroscience, the study of aging as a risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. A five-year, $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will establish Oklahoma’s first Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging.
In the area of ovarian cancer research, Doris M. Benbrook, Ph.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, received a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to further her work. The grant funds a first-in-human clinical trial focusing on OK-1, an anti-cancer compound shown in laboratory studies to prevent the formation of cancerous tumors without causing side effects.
OUHSC also continues to leverage major federal research awards it has received over the past few years. The Oklahoma Clinical and Translational Science Institute was formed from a $20.3 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to engage in clinical and translational research. In 2014, the NIH also renewed a $14.8 million grant to OUHSC for the INBRE program, a multi-institutional effort that uses senior scientists and faculty to mentor researchers who are embarking on their own careers and projects within the health professions.
In 1998, Oklahoma passed legislation that allows university research to be commercialized, and since that time, many OUHSC projects have been transformed into start-up companies. Several companies that got their start with OUHSC research have since attracted millions in state and federal funding.
Recent success stories include Moleculara Labs, based on the research of Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D., a George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the OU College of Medicine. Through the start-up company, five clinical assays are now commercially available to physicians. The assays are used in the diagnosis of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococci (PANDAS), as well as a related condition, Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).
Other successful companies are making strides with their efforts, including Selexys, which is creating a drug for sickle cell anemia; and Heparinex, which produces recombinant technologies for biopolymers.
For additional information about research endeavors and technologies available for licensing, contact the Office of Research Administration at (405) 271-2090 (http://research.ouhsc.edu) or the Office of Technology Development (405) 271-7725 (www.otd.ou.edu).