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New Research Recruits Bring $7.7 Million to Cancer Center

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - Campus News - Contact Theresa Green, (405) 833-9824

Recruiting is often critical to building a winning team in sports, and it is the same in research.  While attracting the best athletes usually costs professional sports teams millions, the recruitment of three top scientists by the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is actually bringing $7.7 million in new research funding to the campus and potentially millions more to the state's economy.

Three scientists – Pryabata Mukherjee, Ph.D., Reshem Bhattacharya, Ph.D., and Takemi Tanaka, Ph.D. – joined the Cancer Center's team of researchers in the past few weeks, bringing with them promising research in the fight against cancer as well as substantial out-of-state funding.

"The recruitment of top researchers to the University in recent years is a tribute to the caliber of our team and of our Cancer Center," OU President David L. Boren said.  "It indicates our cancer scientists are nationally recognized by their peers for superior research. The additional $7.7 million in research support these researchers bring to OU adds significantly to our cancer grant funding." 

OU Health Sciences Center Vice President for Research John Iandolo, Ph.D., said it's estimated that for every dollar in sponsored research another $2.30 is generated in the local economy.  That happens because new, nationally-funded scientists bring their grants with them, which provide salaries for research staff members who accompany them to OU.  In addition, the grants provide new job opportunities locally as researchers hire additional help. 

"The new people coming into the community need places to live. The homes they purchase or lease contribute dollars to the real estate market," Iandolo said. "These new people also spend money in the community for food and daily living necessities, which contributes to the local economy and brings more sales tax revenues to the state."

So $7.7 million in new research funding can translate into $17.7 million in additional money for the state economy. 

"The fact that we can attract top-notch, well-funded researchers to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center speaks highly of the esteem with which our existing colleagues are held," Iandolo said. "It takes an existing critical mass of well-known and respected investigators to attract new scientists. Moreover, it is important that the facilities available on campus are state-of-the-art, providing the venue to conduct cutting-edge research."

Enhancements in the OUHSC's research and research support facilities and technology over the past decade help make the campus a very desirable place for researchers to advance their work. Iandolo said when you couple all of that with the benefits of the local community, which has all of the advantages and none of the disadvantages of larger cities, the Cancer Center and the entire OU Health Sciences Center are increasingly attractive to top scientists.

Mukherjee, a researcher whose work focuses on nanotechnology applications in cancer drug development, brings with him more than $3 million in National Cancer Institute research funding. He also holds the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Chair in Cancer Laboratory Research, one of four endowed chairs funded by the Stephenson's gift to support the recruitment of outstanding cancer researchers to Oklahoma.   

With funding from the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bhattacharya brings with her a total research grant portfolio of more than $2.7 million to Oklahoma. Her work focuses on drug development targets for ovarian cancer.

Tanaka, whose work focuses on the development of new and personalized therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of breast and other cancers, brings with her a grant portfolio totaling almost $2 million. 

All three of the researchers will be appointed Oklahoma TSET Cancer Research Scholars in recognition of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust's efforts to reduce the burden of cancer in the state through support of innovative research.

"These researchers bring with them a wealth of knowledge, innovation and experience to the Stephenson Cancer Center, as well as significant funding," said Dr. Robert Mannel, director of the Cancer Center. "Their work is critical to efforts to find new and innovative ways to treat and prevent cancer but their funding is also important for the Center as we work toward NCI Cancer Center designation. At the same time, their recruitment to Oklahoma provides a potential boost to the state's economy as well. It is truly a win-win for our state."

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