Kansas City, Missouri — Kansas City-based institute, BioNexus KC, has given three grants totaling $150,000 to health investigators from the KC area. They’ve awarded these grants to aid researchers in their study of genetic diseases occuring in children.
BioNexus KC obtained the funding for these grants thanks to Ted C. McCarter, William Evans Jr., Bank of America, and The Paul Patton Trust. These organizations are interested in the local area investigators and providing them with the help they need. As a reminder, BioNexus KC was formerly known under the name of Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute Inc.
Keith Gary, vice president of BioNexus KC, talked in more detail about the grants. He shared that the $150,000 will be split three ways — three different projects will receive $50,000 each. The institute chose the three scientists via a process of selection which included a pool of 15 applications from area scientists. They utilized a research-and-proposal process for reviewing. BioNexus opted for the same model as the one used by the National Institutes of Health.
How Grants Help
Within 16 years (2002–2018), BioNexus KC spent a total of $5 million in 108 grants they awarded. This wasn’t just rewarding for grantees, but the local community as well. Namely, estimates say that for every $1 that the institute put into grants, the region received $10.70 on average. This return to the community came via follow-on funding they received from federal sources. Consequently, the total return for the 16-year period currently sits at $58.9 million.
Keith Gary admitted that $50,000 was by no means an immeasurable amount of money that would remove any financial difficulties. However, he continued, BioNexus aims at helping the researchers fund the preliminary process of collecting data in order to be eligible for a grant on the federal level. The idea behind these grants is to make area scientists more competitive for federal grants.
The three recipients of this year’s grants will deal with children’s genetic diseases. Here’s a brief overview of their projects.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (or chronic kidney failure) manifests as the gradual loss of kidney function. They fail to properly filter excess fluids from your blood, which can generate a high level of wastes and electrolytes in the body. This disease lasts for the sufferer’s lifetime and raises disability and death risks.
Laurel Willig from Children’s Mercy is leading the research team on this disease. They intend the research to show how genetic changes can affect the progression and development of chronic kidney disease. Once they achieve that, they hope they will have enough information to work on advanced therapeutic solutions.
Myelin is a lipid substance which is mandatory for nerve cells located in the brain and throughout the nervous system to function properly. Krabbe disease is a genetic disorder (children inherit it from their parents) which destroys myelin. Muscle weakness, delayed mental and physical development, irritability, and feeding difficulties are some of the symptoms of Krabbe disease. The majority of children with this illness live up to three years old at the most, due to the severity of the disease.
Steven LeVine from the University of Kansas Medical Center has gathered a team of researchers to help him with conducting drug tests on mice. The medicine, if proves successful, will be able to limit the disease’s activity and influence on the body and will help with bone growth.
Sickle Cell Disease
KU Med’s Kenneth Peterson and the team under his command plan to utilize mouse models to gain a full understanding of the Sickle cell disease. They wish to figure out the full extent of the effects of the gene mutation. The hope is that the research will allow them to come up with a treatment drug.
Sickle cell disease is a gene mutation that happens in the coding sequence. This happens in a specific gene and, according to estimates, one in 400 African Americans get the disease annually. The longer Sickle cell disease is present in the body, the more difficulties it can cause to the afflicted. Some symptoms are infections, pain, delayed growth, and stroke.