Research Facility Embodies Promise to be the University for Kentucky

Healthy Kentucky Research Building
The Healthy Kentucky Research Building. Photo by Ben Corwin.

UK Research had much to celebrate in 2019, from unprecedented growth in research awards—up 25% from FY18 to FY19—to the largest grant in UK’s history, the $87 million HEALing Communities Study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 40% in three years. 

What drives us is our unwavering belief that we can make a difference. The tenacity and persistence of our researchers is evidenced by their commitment to create powerful new teams to find solutions to Kentucky’s most pressing problems. Kentucky is among the nation’s leaders in deaths from cancer, diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular diseases including stroke, and substance use disorders. 

In 2015 UK broke ground for a 300,000-square-foot, $265 million building, called the Healthy Kentucky Research Building (HKRB), that focuses on health disparities influencing our citizens. Half of the funding for this research facility came from the state of Kentucky and half came from university resources, including private philanthropy. This year, we competed for an NIH C06 construction grant that will fit-out an additional floor within the facility.   

We are maximizing the collaborative nature of our faculty and staff to tackle these health disparities through the design of HKRB, bringing together investigators from across UK within a highly interactive research environment. Ultimately, 500 researchers (principal investigators, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students), many of whom will be new to UK, will work in this unique facility. 

The building, which opened in 2018, has contributed to our success in securing federal funding to tackle the opioid problem in Kentucky (the HEALing Communities Study), our National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, and our Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (funded through an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award). HKRB also houses several other innovative Centers and Institutes that engage and impact our citizens.  

We are fulfilling our promise. To do so, this year we established the Research Priority Initiative, which identified six priority research areas based on a set of criteria, including the impact of the research on Kentucky, existing strength and disciplinary diversity, and sustained growth. These six areas are cancer, diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular diseases, substance use, neuroscience and energy. Several of these groups are within the HKRB facility, and their coming together through this program coalesced diverse university, state and community stakeholders to successfully compete for one of four NIH HEALing Communities Study grants.

It doesn’t stop here. We have much work to do and a lot of talent across the university in these and other areas that impact the health, economy and well-being of our citizens. We are determined to use our skills and expertise to make possible a brighter future for Kentucky.