‘Transformative’ Gift

Hall Family and Foundation Pledge $75 million to Translational Medicine Institute

If Jackson County voters approve the half-cent sales tax Nov. 5 aimed to create the Translational Medicine Institute of Jackson County, the Hall family and Hall Family Foundation will donate $75 million for a building to house the center.

However, the Halls’ pledge is only good if the initiative is approved. The University of Missouri-Kansas City, Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Saint Luke’s Health System and Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute are partners in the proposed medical research institute.

“This gift eliminates the need for taxpayer dollars to go toward bricks and mortar,” said Donald J. Hall, Sr., whose family founded and operates Hallmark. “It allows the proceeds of the sales tax to go directly toward hiring world-class scientists, researchers and support staff, and it will provide them with the state-of-the-art equipment they need to find new treatments for today and new cures for tomorrow.

“The construction of a building this size will provide a short-term economic boost, but it will be the researchers, their assistants, lab technicians and the outside resources they will attract, along with the spin-offs of patents and new businesses, that will help shape our city’s future,” Hall said.

At the announcement event, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton and other representatives from the collaborating institutions unveiled a drawing of the proposed Translational Medicine Institute of Jackson County.

“This profoundly generous gift demonstrates the power of partnerships to move our community forward,” Morton said. “For decades, we have been combining private philanthropy and state of Missouri funds to leverage federal support for scientific and medical research. With the support of the Halls and the people of Jackson County added to that existing investment, we can move this community to the top tier of research centers.”

The Translational Medicine Institute of Jackson County is expect to occupy two floors — 80,000 square feet — of a new four-story building constructed on top of the existing parking garage at Children’s Mercy. The remaining two floors will be shell floors until further development.

The institute would be on Hospital Hill, the location of UMKC’s health sciences campus that includes the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Health Studies and Pharmacy. Students and faculty from those schools collaborate in translational research as do the Schools of Computing and Engineering, Biological Sciences and Education, the Department of Psychology and the Office of Research and Economic Development. If the sales tax is approved, it would generate an estimated $8 million per year for UMKC and $40 million total per year for translational research.

If approved, the design of the building would get underway immediately and is expected to take nine to 12 months. Construction would follow, with the estimated opening two years later.

At the event, Hall grew tearful talking about his connection to the institute’s collaborators: a Hallmark executive helped found the UMKC School of Medicine; Saint Luke’s has treated his family’s health needs; and his wife, Adele, who died earlier this year, was a longtime champion of Children’s Mercy as a board chairwoman who would hold sick babies.

The $75 million gift is believed to be one of the largest of its kind to any children’s hospital, said Randall L. O’Donnell, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Mercy.

O’Donnell announced other big news: the National Institutes of Health provided a $5.9 million grant to develop one of Children’s Mercy’s diagnostic technologies for broader use in neonatal intensive care units nationwide.

“We believe that 30 percent of the babies in our NICUs are likely to benefit from next-day genome sequencing,” said Stephen Kingsmore, director of the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children’s Mercy and a UMKC School of Medicine professor. “This grant will generate the critical data to guide the use of rapid genome sequencing in the diagnosis and treatment of acutely ill babies.”

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, an alumnus of the UMKC Philosophy Department, grew emotional when he shared his own personal story. His son was given no chance of survival when he was born.  But he started first grade this year, he said, because of the research and care from Children’s Mercy.

“The results from these three iconic institutions will be transformative,” Sanders said. “We can look back at this effort years from now and say it helped shape our city.”

Photo by Robert Steckmest, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

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