Three Kansas City Health Sciences Schools Partner in Consortium

Lynda Bonewald of UMKC is one of the world's top bone and mineralized tissue scientists. Photo by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

UMKC’s Dr. Bonewald will serve as director

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) and the University of Kansas (KU) Medical Center proudly announce a research consortium among the three Kansas City-area institutions. The consortium brings together scientists and resources focused on the research of musculoskeletal disorders and diseases.

This unique consortium is the first initiative of its kind in Kansas City and provides opportunities to combine the individual strengths and resources of the three health sciences schools to advance translational research. Sometimes referred to as “bench to bedside,” translational research harnesses knowledge from the study of basic sciences to produce new drugs, devices and treatment options for patients. The goal of this partnership is to build medical research teams that will focus on specific diseases of muscle and bone, thereby accelerating the process of turning discoveries into clinical treatments while also improving research education opportunities for health sciences students.

The consortium will be overseen by an executive committee comprised of Lynda Bonewald, PhD, vice chancellor for translational and clinical research at UMKC; Jeffrey Joyce, PhD, vice president for research at KCU; and Richard Barohn, MD, vice chancellor for research at the KU Medical Center. Bonewald will serve as the founding director of the consortium, with directorship duties rotating between each of the institutions.

“We have the unprecedented opportunity to tackle diseases of bone and muscle through the newly formed Kansas City Consortium,” Bonewald said. “The goal of this consortium is to build powerful research teams of basic to clinical investigators from our three institutions to discover new treatments and cures. Examples of team focus include muscle/bone wasting, Lou Gehrig’s disease, oral bone and tooth loss and orthopaedic procedures that heal bone faster. These research teams will give our students opportunities to work alongside these researchers to understand and optimally treat musculoskeletal disease.”

UMKC is a world leader in musculoskeletal research. UMKC’s Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Studies, Dentistry, Computer Science and Engineering, Biological Sciences and Education, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Research and Economic Development collaborate to improve health.

“The consortium builds upon the individual strengths of each institution in basic and clinical research to truly improve the health of the communities we serve,” Joyce said. “It leverages the investments and resources of each institution to maximize the impact on translational research in musculoskeletal diseases.”

“The KU Medical Center is pleased to partner with UMKC and KCU to collaborate on musculoskeletal research,” Barohn said. “We are confident that our faculty and researchers, who are dedicated to finding cures for these debilitating diseases, can make even greater strides by working together.”

This is the first formal agreement for joint research among the three universities’ health sciences schools, but the region can look forward to more collaborative efforts. At a recent panel featuring the deans of these three schools of medicine, they each indicated their strong desire to foster collaboration.

Bonewald is also Director of the UMKC Center of Excellence in the Study of Dental and Musculoskeletal Tissues (CEMT).

UMKC in 2012 received a five-year, $8.3 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the relationship between osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) as people age. The research is led by Bonewald and conducted by a multidisciplinary team of investigators from UMKC’s Bone Biology and Muscle Biology research groups, part of the CEMT.

There is a tremendous need for new approaches to treating musculoskeletal diseases. Of the 57.9 million Americans injured annually, more than half incur injuries to the musculoskeletal system. The most common bone disease is osteoporosis, which leads to fragile bones that break easily. Hip fractures account for 300,000 hospitalizations per year; 20 percent of those patients die within a year and 20 percent are relegated to long-term care facilities such as a nursing home.

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