KU Wins $11M Federal Grant, Creates New Research Center for Women’s Health

KU has been awarded an $11.3 million grant to establish its fifth Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.

Posted May 28, 2024

The University of Kansas has won an $11.3 million grant which it will use to establish a new multidisciplinary biomedical center, specializing in women’s health.

The award was granted by the NIH Institutional Development Award Program. The new facility will focus on issues vital to women like ovarian cancer, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research efforts are intended to expand into rural communities—often overlooked in biomedical studies—to address under-researched women in those areas.

“We’re going to leverage big data to improve women’s health,” professor and chair at KU, Heather Desaire said in a release.“All of the research projects within the center will have a component of using large data sets or machine learning, and an application area related to women’s health in some way — especially looking at health disparities that women incur.”

Desaire will also serve as the center’s director. Five other KU faculty will join as the center’s staff serving as project leaders. The team includes Rebecca Whelan, associate professor of chemistry; Meredith Hartley, assistant professor of chemistry; Amber Watts, associate professor of psychology; Jarron Saint Onge, professor of sociology and population health; and Misty Heggeness, associate professor of public affairs & administration and associate research scientist at KU’s Institute for Policy & Social Research.

“The five project leaders will be served by the datasets core, as will anybody in the entire KU community who needs statistics support, dataset analysis or help finding a dataset relevant to a project they are pursuing,” Desaire said.

The grant will also support three new tenure-track faculty hires in the departments of Chemistry, Psychology and Sociology. Those researchers will focus on the intersection of “big data” and biomedical research benefiting women.

The Biomedical Datasets and Services Core Lab at KU will support the research efforts of the University in addition to private industry, according to the release.