OU College of Medicine Evening of Excellence

Spring 2013

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CoM Dean Dewayne Andrews, left, congratulates the honorees at the college’s Evening of Excellence. They are, from left, Kenneth Cooper, M.D., MPH, and his wife, Millie; Peggy and Charles Stephenson; and Casey Killblane, vice chair of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

CoM Dean Dewayne Andrews, left, congratulates the honorees at the college’s Evening of Excellence. They are, from left, Kenneth Cooper, M.D., MPH, and his wife, Millie; Peggy and Charles Stephenson; and Casey Killblane, vice chair of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

One night each year, doctors at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine trade in their lab coats and scrubs for black ties and gowns to raise funds for the college’s junior faculty. Since 1985, the Evening of Excellence, sponsored by the College of Medicine Alumni Association, has provided more than $2.5 million in seed grants for new research projects. This year the event netted more than $133,000 for start-up funds that will help young researchers become more competitive for larger national grants.



“These vital funds not only help launch the national competitiveness of junior researchers, but they also have a significant return on investment that results in improved health care, new businesses and more jobs to help grow Oklahoma’s economy,” OU President David Boren said.



Two examples of this success are William Hildebrand, Ph.D., Presbyterian Health Foundation Professor of Microbiology and Immunology; and Paul DeAngelis, Ph.D., President’s Associates Presidential Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.



Hildebrand, who joined the College of Medicine in 1993 as a junior investigator, received a $15,000 seed grant in 1994 from the College of Medicine Alumni Association from funds raised through the Evening of Excellence. He since has achieved millions in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the National Marrow Donor Program and others.



The overall theme of Hildebrand’s research focuses on the human body’s immune “surveillance system” as it responds to transplantation, autoimmunity, viruses and

cancer.  Hildebrand studies cells’ alarm systems to learn, for example, how they distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells. His aim is to stimulate beneficial immune response and reduce harmful immune responses. In 2000, he developed a precise DNA test to aid in identifying the best possible matches for certain transplant recipients. Labs around the world offer variations of this test.



DeAngelis joined the College of Medicine in 1994 and a year later was awarded a $20,000 seed grant from the Evening of Excellence research fund. He has gone on to draw significant funding from the National Institutes of Health and others, and has earned 33 patents in the United States.



DeAngelis’ research focuses on complex sugar molecules found in the human body that possess therapeutic value. DeAngelis and his team have worked to synthesize a naturally occurring sugar polymer called heparosan, which can be used to more safely and effectively deliver drugs to treat diseases such as cancer and genetic disorders. DeAngelis has founded four companies, for which he also serves as chief scientist. Each is headquartered in Oklahoma City.



This year’s Evening of Excellence honored Charles and Peggy Stephenson, lead donors to OU’s Cancer Center, and the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, which funds a Tobacco Cessation Clinic and supports a program to help translate promising research into new and more effective cancer treatments.  Also honored was Dr. Kenneth Cooper, widely known as the father of aerobics and credited with motivating people to exercise in pursuit of good health.