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Presbyterian Health Foundation awards $932,000 to OMRF

January 17, 2023

The Presbyterian Health Foundation has awarded $932,000 in grants to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation as part of its most recent funding cycle.

The 15 grants funded will support studies at OMRF in areas from cancer and multiple sclerosis to the respiratory virus known as RSV and aging. Funds will also go toward essential equipment needs and recruitment funds for new senior scientists at the Oklahoma City-based nonprofit biomedical research institute.

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. PHF grants within Oklahoma total more than $205 million since its inception in 1985.

“OMRF’s researchers continue to make excellent use of PHF grant funds intended to support early-stage research,” said PHF President Rick McCune. “They show success at leveraging our grant dollars to secure even more national funding, which is exactly what we hope to help them achieve.”

PHF grants to OMRF often serve as critical seed funding for research that bolsters applications for highly competitive federal funds, like those from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

“PHF’s support is just vital to our scientists,” said Rod McEver, M.D., OMRF’s vice president of research. “Their consistent investment in early-stage experiments paves the way for the incredible innovation and discovery that happens here. This trust in our researchers changes lives worldwide.”

The most recent funding includes support for OMRF scientist Dave Forsthoefel, Ph.D., who studies tissue regeneration. With the grant, his team will work to determine how stem cells respond to an injury within the intestine. The knowledge could suggest ways to reprogram our cells to do the same.

“Federal agencies tend to fund ideas that already have some data to show the research will be successful,” said Forsthoefel. “This seed money from PHF does just that, allowing us to perform key experiments that make this project more viable for NIH grants.”

Also included in this round of funding was OMRF scientist Gary Gorbsky, Ph.D., who leads the foundation’s Cell Cycle and Cancer Biology Research Program. He said the grant PHF awarded to his lab would push his entire program to “the cutting edge of research” as they look for the root causes of birth defects and cancer.

“We plan to develop a new method of watching and tracking real-time changes in living cells,” said Gorbsky, who holds the W.H. and Betty Phelps Chair in Developmental Biology. “We are especially grateful to PHF for this support. This is a game-changer that will greatly simplify a process that currently can require months.”


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