Medicinal sales tax to boost UMKC labs?

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KANSAS CITY — Supporters claim a proposed sales tax for medical research would help boost laboratories at UMKC. At the UMKC School of Dentistry doctors today provided a tour to show how their work could be expanded to help those suffering from medical conditions.

Researchers in Kansas City already are working on prevention, treatments and cures that are considered cutting edge. They say a proposed sales tax for a Translational Medicine Institute would accelerate discoveries being made here.

Among the research taking place at UMKC that would take advantage of the tax: Doctors are studying ways to prevent muscle and bone loss as we age. More than 300,000 Americans are hospitalized with hip fractures every year.

There’s also research here into higher than average rates of diabetes, heart disease and stroke among African Americans. Supporters say one out of four Jackson Countians is black and could benefit from work to help eliminate health disparities among the minority population.

And doctors are developing treatments for glaucoma and other major vision conditions in these labs. Supporters of the tax claim one out of five Jackson Countians suffer from vision problems.

“If we can get the government going again, even if we could,” said Leo Morton, chancellor at UMKC. “Federal funding for research is declining and the competition for federal grants is getting more intense every day.”

This UMKC research lab includes more than $1 million in existing high-tech research infrastructure, including scanning electron microscopes, that tax supporters say would serve as a foundation for the proposed translational medicine institute.

Opponents of the sales tax say they don’t object to the basic research underway in the labs. But they say taxpayers should not further discoveries that private institutions and entities will profit from, and others object to a large private donation being tied to passage of the sales tax.

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