Dr. Bayles aims to continue ‘upward trajectory’ of UNMC research

Kenneth Bayles, PhD

Kenneth Bayles, PhD

UNMC Vice Chancellor for Research Ken Bayles, PhD, takes on his new role at the time of opportunity and challenge for UNMC and its researchers.

There’s a lot to be excited about.

Total research expenditures at UNMC reached $183 million in fiscal year 2022, the largest total in UNMC’s history. Sponsored program awards totaled $251.9 million, an increase of 10%, marking a new record and four years of consecutive growth. Total research awards, including clinical research awards, increased 4% to $169.7 million, the second highest amount on record.

“Clinical research has been on an upward trajectory for several years now under the leadership of Drs. Jennifer Larsen and Chris Kratochvil, who have laid a strong foundation for continued growth in this area,” Dr. Bayles said.

“But as with any organization that is experiencing growth, there are growing pains. We’ve identified bottlenecks in multiple areas; the biggest are workforce related, such as the recruitment of enough trained personnel in the Clinical Trials Office and Clinical Research Center, or IRB staff to handle the increased demand.”

Improving the processes that are involved in the clinical research enterprise is a priority for the VCR office, Dr. Bayles said. Since he moved into the new role on Oct. 1, Dr. Bayles has been meeting with prominent UNMC clinical researchers to recognize areas of opportunity and define challenges or barriers.

“Basic science research is critical, but the clinical research turns those new discoveries into practice,” he said. “As an academic health center, it’s critically important for us to have a strong presence in clinical research.”

Dr. Bayles is looking to national programs, especially those programs similar in size to UNMC, to help create a blueprint for UNMC’s research efforts.

“We don’t want to just create a copy of what others do. We need to capitalize on our strengths here and the things that make us unique – build on that while learning from organizations that do this well. Maybe it is the competitive side of me, but I want to identify areas where we can be number one. That may be a bold statement, but that’s what drives me.”

To help achieve this, Dr. Bayles has recently initiated a search for a replacement for Dr. Kratochvil, who will be stepping down from his role as the associate vice chancellor for clinical research at the end of the year.

“This position will be critical to build on UNMC’s clinical research strengths. We are leading the world in areas such as our health security work, so there are examples to follow,” he said. “We will be working with the deans to identify the areas that we can focus our resources on and build to a higher level.

“We have great people here at UNMC. The goal is to build a clinical enterprise that can harness and coordinate this incredible talent into world-class programs.”

Dr. Bayles pointed to UNMC’s growing global reputation in public health, infectious disease and health security as a blueprint to follow.

“During the pandemic, we rolled up our sleeves, and we led the world,” he said. “In the research arena, when there’s an opportunity, regardless of the challenge, I want UNMC to be ready to have a positive impact on the health of our fellow citizens.

“The clinic is the front line of translational research. A lot of great discoveries are made in the laboratory, but it’s not until you can get those discoveries into the clinical realm that you really have an opportunity to make the world a better place.”

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