OU Health Sciences Center Researchers Receive Millions in PHF Grants

OU Health Sciences Center Researchers Receive Millions in PHF Grants

Published: Monday, July 24, 2023

Researchers across the OU Health Sciences Center were recently awarded nearly $3 million in grants from the Presbyterian Health Foundation (PHF), which supports Oklahoma’s biotechnology, medical research and education organizations.

The funds will support critical studies and equipment needs in areas such as diabetes, cancer, retinal disease, necrotizing colitis, tobacco use prevention and much more. PHF grants have played an important role in the advancement of research at the OU Health Sciences Center for many years.

“We greatly value the investments PHF has made into our research mission,” said Darrin Akins, Ph.D., Vice President for Research at the OU Health Sciences Center. “It allows our investigators to generate important data and submit competitive grant applications to national level programs. This funding is essential for enhancing our research capacity and infrastructure as we work toward being in the top tier among all academic health centers in the country.”  

One of the newly funded studies at the OU Health Sciences Center focuses on inherited retinal disease, which affects approximately 2.7 million people around the world. Lea Bennett, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Ophthalmology in the OU College of Medicine, is leading a study that seeks to understand why genetic mutations cause blindness in people who have the condition. She is investigating the mutation of a specific gene through innovative laboratory assessments combined with an examination of human retinal tissue.

Another study seeks to increase prostate cancer screening among African American men. The study is led by Jordan Neil, Ph.D., of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the OU College of Medicine and member of the TSET Health Promotion Research Center at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center.

Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in African American men and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. In this project, Neil plans to develop and evaluate an app that will improve knowledge of prostate cancer risk and symptoms, as well as provide instructions for completing a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test at home. Greater uptake of the PSA test may reduce the disproportionate burden of prostate cancer among African American men.

A study on bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a respiratory disease that can develop if a premature infant’s lungs did not develop fully in the womb, also was funded in PHF’s latest round of grants. The project is investigating an innovative therapy that aims to prevent the condition, thereby protecting the newborn from other problems that could develop, such as pulmonary hypertension, trouble feeding and learning difficulties. The study is led by Trent Tipple, M.D., chief of the Section of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics of the OU College of Medicine.

PHF primarily supports research and innovation taking place within the Oklahoma Health Center in Oklahoma City. Since PHF’s inception in 1985, it has awarded nearly $215 million in grants.

“We are incredibly proud of the top-notch research projects funded this cycle,” said PHF President Rick McCune. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen remarkable health discovery happening at the Oklahoma Health Center campus, all with the aim of improving the quality of healthcare available to all Oklahomans.”