About 375 community, education and business leaders learned Friday of the groundbreaking biomedical research at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, where UCF scientists are working to find cures for cancer, cardiovascular, infectious and neurodegenerative diseases.

The Burnett school was the highlight of a President’s Focus on Excellence Breakfast held at The Ballroom at Church Street. The event shared the history and current research at the biomedical school, which has more than 2,200 undergraduates and more than 100 students in master’s and doctoral programs. The Burnett school’s mission is to build nationally recognized research and educational programs in the biomedical sciences. During the past three years, biomedical researchers have generated more than $27 million in research grants from such prestigious agencies as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Burnett school Director Pappachan E. Kolattukudy shared with the audience the “hunger” that successful researchers have. Biomedical research “is not a profession,” he said. “Research is a way life.”

Kolattukudy described the array of research at the Burnett school, including treatments for what he called “the major afflictions of human beings,” including heart disease, diabetes, malaria, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease. That research includes how a “death protein” produced in the body can destroy cancer cells; how lettuce could be used to create oral vaccines against major infectious diseases and how stem cells can repair diseased hearts.

UCF President John Hitt noted that Burnett scientists are not only creating new knowledge through their research but are also “remarkable” teachers in the classroom. He described the development and growth of UCF’s biomedical science programs as “one of the greatest pleasures of my presidency.”

Research, education and patient care must come together if a medical school is going to be successful, Dean Deborah German, M.D., told the audience. To truly practice the art of medicine, she said, physicians must learn from scientists and vice versa.

That interaction will become more apparent as the College of Medicine occupies its new medical education building this spring at the Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona, which also features the newly opened 198,000 square-foot Burnett Biomedical Sciences facility. Nine faculty members and their labs recently moved to Burnett’s new home at the “medical city” at Lake Nona.