04:30 AM

'Investing in Tomorrow's Cures/Improving Today's Care'

Jackson County's business and health communities propose a publicly funded Institute to advance treatments and cures

Jackson County business, civic and health care leaders today unveiled a proposal to create a world-class Institute for Translational Research and Medicine that would recruit and employ an elite force of physician scientists from Kansas City and around the world to develop cutting-edge treatments and cures for a gamut of diseases.

The Institute would operate as a collaborative partnership between Children's Mercy, Saint Luke's Health System, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Nursing and Health Studies, and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute. 

Donald J. Hall, Jr., President and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc., and current Chair of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, said the Institute would attract and engage top-level physician scientists who, through advanced research and bedside studies and trials, would "translate" new knowledge into discoveries leading to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of diseases, especially those that affect children and the elderly.

"There are great civic endeavors and watershed moments that change the course and fortunes of a community," Hall said. "This is one of them. Beyond the phenomenal human benefits that will come from the development of new and groundbreaking treatments and cures, this Institute for Translational Research will distinguish Kansas City as a center point in America for medical innovation."

A Community Investment

The proposal, which is expected to be put before the county legislature next week, calls for levying a half cent sales tax in Jackson County that would raise an estimated $40 million a year to attract world-class researchers and support staff, and to provide them with the equipment and facilities necessary to develop life-changing discoveries, treatments and cures.

If approved after review by the legislature, the proposal could be placed on a county-wide ballot for voter consideration as early as Nov. 5 of this year.

The proposal, outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding between the four partner institutions, states that the new tax revenues would be utilized solely to advance translational research, with 50 percent going to support research overseen by Children's Mercy, 20 percent to research overseen by UMKC, and 20 percent to research overseen by Saint Luke's. 

The remaining 10 percent would be dedicated to research-related economic development initiatives designated by the Institute's board, such as helping prepare Jackson County residents for health care and research jobs through programs offered by the Metropolitan Community College System.

Supporters say development of new medications, treatments and cures - especially in the fields of pediatric and geriatric medicine - would induce more than $600 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for Jackson County in the first decade of operation. And, they say, establishment of the Institute will put Kansas City and Jackson County in the forefront of entrepreneurial medical research efforts that have the potential to revolutionize American health care in the 21st century.

Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City today ranks among the top pediatric hospitals in the nation, and credits its success at treating and saving the lives of children to an exceptional level of care enabled by an ongoing commitment to new research and treatments.

"Because we have become a national center for the delivery of pediatric health care services, our providers see and treat a significant number of extraordinary cases," said Randall L. O'Donnell, PhD, and President and CEO of Children's Mercy. "Our translational research scientists are also medical doctors who work alongside other physicians at the bedside to deliver a quality of care enabled by the knowledge they gain from the research they conduct. Their research focuses on how a cure discovered in the lab is translated into care delivered to the patient. This program will have a magnetic influence on other research scientists, who will come here to do their research."

Benefits of Discovery

The benefits of the Institute's research, discoveries and testing would first reach the people and patients of Jackson County. Patients here would ultimately receive a quality of health care service inaccessible in most other places. 

Saint Luke's also has earned a national reputation for in-house translational research, with more than 9,200 patients enrolled in research trials. 

"The outcomes and translational research that is done in cardiology in Kansas City is widely recognized as amongst the best in the world," said John Spertus M.D., MPH, FACC, FAHA, Clinical Director of Outcomes Research, Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute. "With funding from this initiative, we will be able to leverage our expertise in many other disciplines, including pediatrics, cancer, neurology and stroke, orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology, bone disease, and more. If the community invests in translational and outcomes research, it will enhance Kansas City's ability to recruit the best and brightest talents in the country and around the world, and serve as a catalyst for the creation of novel, collaborate networks throughout our community to improve the care we deliver."

The work of the institute is expected to produce patentable intellectual property and commercialization of discoveries. The plan calls for not less than 20 percent of the net revenue received from the commercialization of intellectual property owned, designed, or developed by the Institute to be remitted to Jackson County to be used solely for the purposes of indigent health care, public health and education.

The UMKC schools, where medical investigators already are recognized leaders in the evolving age of translational research, see the collaboration and addition of world-caliber researchers as a fast-track to better treatments and cures for chronic health issues that are especially vexing among minority populations, including heart disease, asthma, diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration, osteoporosis, obesity and addictions.

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said: "Armed with the resources of this exciting new collaboration, we can make this region one of just a handful of communities in the U.S. - and really, the world - where a critical mass of talent, resources and opportunity establishes us as a contender for attracting the best and brightest clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs in the medical field."

Oversight and Transparency 

Stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding, is a requirement that the board of directors of the Institute include the chief executives of Children's Mercy, Saint Luke's Health System, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute and one other executive selected by the chief executive of Children's Mercy. 

The Jackson County Executive would appoint a five member Oversight and Transparency Board with six-year staggered terms to oversee the administration of the new tax revenues. 

"The concept of a world-class institute for translational medicine here in our backyard is exciting; it's visionary," said Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. "It could be a great boon to the health and financial well-being of our residents and make a positive difference in the lives of people all over the world. I look forward to putting the concept and the sales tax funding option in front of my colleagues on the legislature, for their consideration."

Media Contacts

Pat O'Neill, 816.392.4051, pat@oneillevents.com
Steve Glorioso, 816.679.3726, s_glorioso@hotmail.com