Last week brought some significant news for Oklahoma that affirmed the tremendous talent and potential that exists in our state’s medical and research communities. Specifically, I was honored to have a part in applauding Oklahoma based researchers who are leading the way at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), as recognized by two competitive federal grants that were recently awarded.
During a special event at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s headquarters, I was pleased to announce that the organization will receive two grants totaling up to $48 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund research related to autoimmune diseases and human exposure to anthrax. The grant funding awarded will not only open doors to new treatments for Oklahoma patients, but the projects will also deliver significant economic benefits by creating and supporting jobs in the research sector and helping identify future biotechnology opportunities in our state.
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s Dr. Judith James will lead a team at the Oklahoma Autoimmunity Center of Excellence and will receive up to $36 million to research multiple sclerosis, lupus, psoriasis, Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, $12 million has been granted to Dr. Mark Coggeshall to research anthrax and find ways to cope with and cure the deadly disease. While it should come as no surprise, the fact that Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation can receive such competitive grants over the likes of research institutions like Harvard and Johns Hopkins just goes to show the measure of excellence.
And I am proud that the federal medical research dollars will yield economic benefits for our state’s economy and workforce. For instance, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation employs hundreds of people and has an estimated yearly economic impact of nearly $46 million in the state of Oklahoma.
As the top Republican leader on the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH, I recognize the importance of biomedical and disease research. During my time as chairman of the subcommittee, I prioritized research funding and oversaw historic increases across the country. In my current role, I continue to advocate for incremental increases year after year. In a lot of ways, biomedical research is similar to the strategy behind defense spending. You cannot simply build a military all at once. Instead, you must make sustained investments, and that’s what has occurred in recent years with research funding.
Everyone has family members and loved ones who are affected by some form of disease. Regardless of your politics, funding for biomedical and disease research is always a worthy cause. As I serve in Congress, I will continue fighting to sustain and increase the gains that we have made, so centers of research excellence – like Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation – can continue to pursue groundbreaking research to benefit all of society.
Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-04) is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is the Ranking Member of House Rules Committee. Cole is currently serving in his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was identified as “one of the sharpest minds in the House,” by Time Magazine and “the hardest working Member of Congress,” by Newsmax. In 2017, Cole was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.