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Presbyterian Health Foundation Awards $1.1 Million to OMRF

The Presbyterian Health Foundation recently awarded 16 grants totaling $1.1 million to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

These grants will support critical equipment needs and studies at OMRF in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, blindness, healthy aging and genetic heart defects.

“Investing in the incredible work of these OMRF researchers reflects our steadfast commitment to advancing medical science and improving lives,” said PHF President Rick McCune. “Our continued partnership exemplifies our belief in the transformative power of research, and it underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in the pursuit of better treatments and cures.”

PHF primarily supports the state’s biotechnology, medical research and education organizations, with an emphasis on research and innovation taking place within the Oklahoma Health Center campus in Oklahoma City. Its grants provide critical seed funding for research that bolsters applications for highly competitive federal grants, like those from the National Institutes of Health.

With this round of funding, OMRF physician-scientist Matlock Jeffries, M.D., will advance his work to develop treatments for osteoarthritis by screening samples from about 100 study volunteers with the condition. His team is searching for biomarkers in the blood that are associated with disease progression.

“The technology we’ll use screens for more than 5,000 proteins and requires a much smaller sample size than previous technology, but the cost per sample is higher,” Jeffries said. “We hope our results persuade a federal agency that this is worth pursuing on a much larger scale.”

In another grant, PHF funds will enhance the computational capacity of OMRF’s new Center for Biomedical Data Sciences, which provides cutting-edge analytic knowledge and support for OMRF scientists.

“Our research increasingly relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that require graphics processing units, or GPUs,” said the center’s founding director, Courtney Montgomery, Ph.D. “Most people associate GPUs with video games, but for us, they’re tools to process complex biological data and images quickly.”

Also in this round of grants, PHF awarded funds to support the recruitment of Jaya Krishnan, Ph.D., who recently joined OMRF from the Stowers Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

Krishnan studies how some organisms live with high blood glucose and excess body fat without becoming ill. By understanding these survival strategies, she hopes to uncover new targets for treating human metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity.

PHF grants within Oklahoma now total more than $215 million since its inception in 1985.

“PHF has been one of our scientists’ most consistent sources of support,” said Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., OMRF’s vice president of research. “It makes a difference at every level – from recruiting and retention to winning federal grants. We’re all grateful for their trust in us as scientists and for their dedication to the state’s biomedical research progress.”


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