Some eastern Kentucky officials want to bring a billion dollar industry to eastern Kentucky.
Health officials and some local legislators want to build a medical research center in Pike County for the economic boost, but they believe it is the answer to fight high cancer rates and other chronic diseases in eastern Kentucky.
Most medical research centers are in larger, urban cities, and some local officials think they do not accurately study health issues rural areas.
They think a research center here would both improve health and bring millions of dollars to the economy.
Pikeville Medical Center doctors see patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or black lung daily.
“It affects my family. It affects every family in eastern Kentucky at some point,” Senator Ray Jones said.
State Senator Ray Jones and Pikeville Medical Center officials want to find ways to cure and prevent the illnesses in Eastern Kentucky.
They believe a medical research center here like what U-K and Louisville have is the answer.
“This could be the center of this type of research for rural healthcare in America. It's never been done, and it could be done,” Jerry Johnson said.
Doctors believe daily monitoring and drug trials using Eastern Kentucky patients could find breakthroughs to cure them, or even prevent the illnesses in the future.
They believe Pike County is the best spot because it already has the resources available with two hospitals and the Pikeville College Medical School.
Jones says the nation spends one billion dollars per year on medical research so he believes the center would pump millions of dollars into the economy and create high-paying jobs.
It will cost several million dollars to start it, but officials believe the benefits outweigh the costs.
Jones does not think they can get state money because of the budget deficit, so they are pursuing federal grants and coal severance funds.
Pikeville Medical Center will also help pay for it.