BYLINE: Kristi Birch

Newswise — The Kansas Institute for Precision Medicine (KIPM) will continue its mission to improve health care by training physicians and scientists in precision medicine and supporting their research, thanks to a renewed Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Precision medicine considers individual differences in people’s genes, environments and lifestyles to inform diagnoses and prognoses and identify the most effective therapies and treatments. The five-year, $11.4 million grant will provide junior investigators with support, mentoring and funding for research and initiatives with a precision medicine focus and offer pilot grants that are also available to more established investigators.

“It's been a passion of mine for my entire career, trying to understand how you move things from discovery into change in clinical practice,” said Andrew Godwin, Ph.D., founding director of the KIPM and professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “The KIPM helps us promote the next generation of scientists, many of whom are physician-scientists, who can then move forward with new discoveries and change the way we treat patients.”

Created with the first COBRE grant awarded in 2019, the KIPM is the only research center dedicated to precision medicine in the state of Kansas and the surrounding region. It is also one of the few COBREs with an emphasis on career development for physician-scientists, Godwin said. The KIPM has supported research projects across a variety of health areas including asthma, schizophrenia, sleep disturbances, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis and different kinds of cancer.

The KIPM can support five junior faculty at a time. These scientists receive financial support, mentoring and research support and access to the Patient and Community Engagement resource, which provides training in how to conduct studies in partnership with patients and other stakeholders. After these early-career investigators use the support from KIPM to develop their research and secure independent funding, new investigators are then able to receive KIPM support.

Under the renewed COBRE grant, the number of pilot grants the KIPM offers will double, to four $50,000 grants per year, Godwin said.

The COBRE grant will also enhance the KIPM’s infrastructure, including three “cores” that provide research support: the quantitative “omics” core, which applies statistical and data science methods to genomics, proteomics and other biological disciplines; the biobanking and biomarker validation core; and the biomedical engineering core. The new grant will be used in part to expand those cores and make them self-sustaining so that they become a shared resource throughout the region.

Godwin noted that one of the indicators of the success of the first COBRE grant was the number of publications that resulted from the research the KIPM supported. “We're probably at the 90th percentile for all COBREs, even those that have been established for three (grant) cycles,” he said. “So, we’ve been very productive.”