This year, the foundation granted 100 percent of all grants requested.
The Presbyterian Health Foundation has been funding grant-based research since 1985, and in 2018 they honed their focus to fund only biomedical research projects. Since 1985, PHF has donated $205 million to fund research in Oklahoma, and this year they were able to fund one hundred percent of grants requested by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and OU Health Science Center, a total of more than 80 grants and $5.5 million. PHF expects to grant another $3.3 million before the end of the fiscal year, September 30.
Grant recipients at OUHSC include Dr. Doris Benbrook, who is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at OUHSC College of Medicine. Benbrook is leading a clinical trial on a new cancer drug, called OK-1, that she developed over the course of 25 years. The trial is being conducted at the Stephenson Cancer Center. OUHSC issued a news release to explain how OK-1 works:
“OK-1 works by taking away one of the ‘tricks’ that cancer cells use to survive. When cancer cells develop, the body naturally tries to stop their invasion and growth. In response, cancer cells increase their production of ‘chaperone proteins,’ which act like ‘bodyguards to keep the cancer cells from dying. The drug OK-1 is able to attach to the chaperone proteins, disabling them in the process. The body’s immune system, or another drug like chemotherapy, is then better able to kill cancer cells because they are no longer protected by ‘bodyguards.’ The drug does not harm healthy cells because they do not need the chaperone protection.”
OK-1 was developed completely in Oklahoma, and in what is a rare circumstance, without the assistance of a pharmaceutical company. The USDA recently approved OK-1 for clinical trials on humans. Other grant recipients at OUHSC include OU College of Pharmacy researcher Anthony Burgett, Ph.D., who is receiving an equipment grant and a team science grant for his work with antiviral drugs, and Matthew Hart, Ph.D., (Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) for a sophisticated piece of equipment for the Oklahoma Center for Therapeutic Sciences. Per a press release, the center provides advanced equipment, software tools and expertise to researchers in many different fields, as they seek to translate basic scientific discoveries into new drug candidates for treatment of human diseases.
OMRF grants will fund research in areas including cancer, lupus, genetic mutations and heart disease. One of the grants awarded to Dr. Mike Beckstead and Dr. Tommy Lewis supports a collaborative project for scientists working to identify new targets for medications that would prevent the loss of brain cells in people with Parkinson’s disease and methamphetamine addiction.