UNMC researchers secure more than $15 million in defense funds

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public affairs | January 28, 2009

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Ben Boedeker, M.D., Ph.D.
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Ken Bayles, Ph.D.
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Robert Lewis, Ph.D.
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Steve Hinrichs, M.D.
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Alexander "Sasha" Kabanov, Ph.D.
UNMC recently has secured more than $11 million in direct earmarked funds from the Department of Defense (DOD), plus about $4 million more in earmarks for collaboration projects to support research projects at the medical center for the fiscal year 2009.

The earmarks for UNMC projects break down as such:

  • $6.2 million to fund work by anesthesiology professor Ben Boedeker, M.D., Ph.D., to advance an on-the-battlefield video laryngoscope -- a device used to look down a patient's throat when health professionals insert a breathing tube;
  • $2 million to support Ken Bayles, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of pathology and microbiology, as he develops ways to fight drug resistant infections such as the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), and GroupA streptococci (flesh-eating bacteria); and
  • $2.96 million to Eppley Institute professor Robert Lewis, Ph.D., for his study of genes known to control energy levels, work capacity and survival abilities for soldiers in extreme environments.

"The Department of Defense continues to be a strong supporter of biomedical research," said Mark Bowen, UNMC's director of government relations. "The funding success of these researchers shows that significant opportunities exist for those who look to the DOD for research support."

UNMC investigators also are collaborators in several other projects that received more than $8 million in support from DOD earmarks, of which about $4 million will come to UNMC.

These UNMC investigators are:

  • Steve Hinrichs, M.D., chairman of the department of pathology and microbiology, who is a co-principal investigator on a project with 3M Corp that received a $2.4 million earmark to develop new respiratory protection gear. Dr. Hinrichs also is a co-principal investigator on a project with 3M and the Nebraska Infection Control Network that received a $2 million earmark to examine infection control in military and community hospitals; and
  • Alexander "Sasha" Kabanov, Ph.D., the Parke-Davis Chair in Pharmaceutics, UNMC College of Pharmacy and director of the Nebraska Center for Nanomedicine, who is a co-principal investigator on a project with researchers from Iowa State University that received a $4 million earmark to engineer vaccines to fight respiratory infections.

Vice Chancellor for Research Tom Rosenquist, Ph.D., lauded the investigators for their hard work in securing the funding and also praised Bowen, Sara Cizek Going, government relations specialist, and Paula Turpen, Ph.D., UNMC's director of research resources, in working hard to help UNMC investigators to gain access to DOD money.

"The size and scope of the UNMC research enterprise has grown and matured over the past few years," Dr. Rosenquist said. "There now is a solid core of senior scientists whose work is important to the Department of Defense.

"The congressionally-directed support received this year by Drs. Boedeker, Bayles, Lewis, Hinrichs and Kabanov show the strength and scientific diversity of this group, whose innovative work with these funds will provide the basis for a huge growth area for UNMC, and will increase the safety and security of Nebraska and the United States as a whole. We're very proud of their efforts."