BioNexus KC Awards $150k to Advance Pediatric Disease Research  

BioNexus KC Awards $150k to Advance Pediatric Disease Research  

For Immediate Release: October 5, 2023  

KANSAS CITY, MO – BioNexus KC has awarded three $50,000 grants to regional scientists to coordinate and support pediatric research. The partnership with the Paul Patton Trust launched in 2007 and has awarded 51 grants to local researchers totaling over $2.6M. The Paul Patton Trust, Ted C. McCarter, William Evans, Jr., and Bank of America, N.A. Trustees provide the funds to support these studies.   

“This program fosters an environment of creativity and discovery. It provides innovative regional minds with excellent resources to seek out meaningful advances in preventing, diagnosing, and treating childhood disease,” said Daniel Kennedy, Vice President of BioNexus KC. “This opportunity offers significant promise for meaningful collaborations between multiple organizations across the KC region.” 

A brief description of each grant recipient’s research is below.  

Searching for Insights into the Genetic Basis of Craniofacial Microsomia 

Parts of the face form abnormally for children with craniofacial microsomia (CFM). It typically affects the ears and jaw but can also affect the eyes, cheeks, and neck bones. These abnormalities can cause feeding, breathing, chewing, hearing, and speech issues. Surgical and dental treatments are based on the child’s age and the severity of the symptoms, which range from mild to severe. CFM is the second-most common congenital disability affecting the face. In the US, it is as prevalent as all childhood cancers combined in children less than five years of age. 

Timothy Cox, PhD, Endowed Professor in Dental and Musculoskeletal Tissue Research at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and his regional collaborator Paul Trainor, PhD, Investigator at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, will use family-based genetic studies and both zebrafish and human stem cell models to identify new variants and understand the underlying basis of the most prevalent genetic causes of CFM. “This Patton Trust award will allow us to gain important insight into a common facial birth defect that is poorly understood,” Cox said. “And importantly provide the progress needed to pursue federal funding that will ultimately positively impact patient clinical care.” 

Developing Diagnostic & Profiling Tools for Osteosarcoma Patients 

Osteosarcoma (OS) is the most common type of cancer that originates in a person’s bones, often affecting longer bones in the arms and legs. The most common symptoms are limited movement, bone pain, lump formation, and an elevated risk of broken bones. Early diagnosis of OS can improve the five-year survival rate by up to 60%. Therefore, it is critical to accurately identify the disease early to improve survival rates. There is currently no widely recommended screening method that is minimally invasive. 

Shih-Kang “Scott” Fan, PhD, Professor at Kansas State University, and his team aim to discover minimally invasive diagnosis tools for early detection and continuous monitoring. Fan will also study cutting-edge techniques to provide a better profiling tool to diagnose OS in the lab and clinical settings. “I am deeply honored to receive the BioNexus KC Patton Trust Grant,” Fan said. “This recognition underscores the invaluable support in our journey to advance knowledge and innovation in microfluidic diagnostics.” 

Developing Targeted Therapies for Fusion-Driven Cancers   

Fusion-driven cancers result from errors during cell division, causing unintended fusions of DNA structures. This leads to gene dysfunction and uncontrolled cell growth in the body. Patients with these cancers often develop resistance to current treatments, particularly in cases of lymphoma and leukemia.  

Ramesh Balusu, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and his team will identify and target specific proteins to analyze the growth of fusion-driven cancers.  “The Patton Trust funding will support our efforts to further explore these rare fusions and facilitate the development of innovative therapies for fusion-driven lymphomas and leukemias,” Balusu said.   


About the BioNexus KC Research Development Grants Program: 

The BioNexus KC grant program intends to position researchers to compete for larger federal grants. For every grant dollar awarded by BioNexus KC, $13.10 returns to the region from federal agencies. The total return on investment currently stands at $66,000,000 and continues to grow.  

Through our Research Development Grants program, BioNexus KC manages a variety of individual grants for area corporations and trusts, helping them identify proposals with the best scientific, medical, and technical merit. Research grants are awarded for generating initial results and stimulating major multidisciplinary research proposals submitted to government or private agencies. The program includes proposal review, evaluation by subject matter experts, written reviews for all applicants, and post-award management. Today, it is expensive to acquire the data necessary to even apply for large federal grants; the BioNexus KC Research Development Grants Program provides area collaborators with funds to make local, federal proposals more competitive nationwide. 

About BioNexus KC: 

The KC region is a global leader at the nexus of human and animal health, inspiring thinkers from diverse disciplines to combine their efforts for a common purpose — healthcare innovation. For over 20 years, BioNexus KC has been advancing the region’s strengths in digital health, cancer research, health equity, informatics, and rare disease.   

BioNexus KC stimulates collaboration, accelerates emerging technology from concept to reality, and creates opportunities at the nexus of:  

  • Human and Animal Health  
  • Urban and Rural Health  
  • Academia and Industry  
  • Kansas and Missouri  

Media Inquiries:  

Jennifer Lindholm
BioNexus KC – Marketing and Communications Manager