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KU's cancer-fighting plant research program losing its key funding

Posted: August 13, 2012 |   Comments

A successful plant research program at Kansas University that had uncovered molecules with cancer-fighting properties is trying to find new sources of money after a Kansas Bioscience Authority-backed organization pulled out of its funding commitment.

Barbara Timmermann, a KU distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry and lead person on KU's Native Medicinal Plant Research Program, said she had never experienced anything like the premature funding cuts in her more than 30 years of research work.

The program had been funded for $5 million over five years from Heartland Plant Innovations, one of the KBA's centers of innovation. Those organizations are independently operated from the KBA but received startup funds from the state-funded bioscience authority.

This year, KU project leaders said, they heard the program would no longer be funded after June, which is the end of the third year of funding. About half of the original funding commitment had been awarded. The program's leaders were not given a reason for the funding cuts, Timmermann said.

The program's research focused on using native Kansas plants to find new molecules that held the potential to fight diseases, including cancer. One such molecule, found in a wild tomatillo plant, had showed enough promise in fighting cancer that KU researchers applied for patents on the compounds.

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