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09/10/2001 07:00:00

Caltech completes $111 million fundraising effort for the biological sciences

The California Institute of Technology has successfully completed a $111 million fundraising effort begun in 1998 to expand the biological sciences. The $111 million exceeds the original $100 million goal.

Funds raised during the Biological Sciences Initiative (BSI) will make possible a new building on the Pasadena campus, new professorships and fellowships, new faculty appointments, and a wide range of new research programs.

In commenting on the successful conclusion of the BSI, Caltech President David Baltimore said, "Caltech's biological heritage and traditional interdisciplinary strength give us a powerful advantage when addressing fundamental biological questions. The Institute's faculty have already made creative use of early BSI planning and gifts to create unique research and teaching opportunities that bring the perspective of fields such as geology, chemistry, computation, physics, philosophy, and engineering to bear on complex biological questions.

"The announcement this summer of the mapping of the human genome provided unequivocal evidence that modern biology has evolved into a science of information," Baltimore continued. "As noteworthy a milestone as that accomplishment will be in the annals of scientific history, the completion of the Human Genome Project really just provides scientists with a new tool—not with solutions. The gifts our donors made to the BSI will provide our talented scientists, engineers, and social scientists with critical resources to move beyond the genomic information to explore the basic questions of life and disease.

"The phenomenal success of the BSI reflects the foresight of many individuals in supporting Caltech's important work in the biological sciences," Baltimore added. "On behalf of the entire Caltech community, I wish to express my appreciation to the donors to the campaign for enabling this work to move forward and to the dedicated and enthusiastic members of the BSI Gift Committee who guaranteed the success of the Biological Sciences Initiative."

This research will result in new drugs and therapies to address diseases such as cancer and AIDS, and will also lead to a deeper understanding of how organisms develop and why they sometimes develop anomalies, as well as an understanding of the biological basis of higher-level brain functions such as consciousness and cognition.

Cochairs for the BSI were Caltech alumnus Ben Rosen (who has since been named chairman of the board of trustees) and senior trustee Camilla Frost. The campaign was planned and led by a special committee comprising trustees, alumni, faculty, and other friends of the Institute.

"Speaking for the committee, we are extremely pleased with the result of the campaign, and we want to thank all of Caltech's friends for supporting this great effort," said Frost, who contributed $5 million toward construction of the Broad Center, the building that will be made possible by the campaign.

"Caltech's supporters have always been extremely generous," added Rosen, who contributed $5 million and thereby single-handedly met the campaign's goal for endowed graduate fellowships.

"In the case of the BSI, I think our friends realized that it was particularly important to support the Institute's programs in the biological sciences, given the opportunity to make important discoveries that will improve the human condition," Rosen said.

The physical centerpiece of the new research efforts will be the Broad Center for the Biological Sciences, named for Caltech trustee and Los Angeles business and civic leader Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe. The Broads provided $23 million—the lead gift—for the building, which is currently under construction and is projected to open for research occupancy next summer. The building is designed by world-renowned architect James Freed, who also designed the acclaimed U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Broad Center will house about a dozen research groups working in such areas as structural, behavioral, and computational biology, and will also contain shared facilities for electron microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging. Additional funding for the building's construction and equipment has come from the estate of William Hacker, Caltech class of 1931, which provided $8 million in capital funds as well as $1.4 million in discretionary funds for the chair of the Division of Biology.

Eight new professorships were endowed through the campaign. Trustee Donald Bren contributed $10 million through the Donald L. Bren Foundation to support new faculty as Bren Scholars and eventually endow five Bren Professorships.

More than 5,500 Caltech alumni participated in the BSI by responding to a challenge from Ron and Maxine Linde, in which the Lindes agreed to match new and increased gifts toward the naming of the Ronald and Maxine Linde/Caltech Alumni Laboratories on the ground floor of the Broad Center.

Also, Caltech received $5 million from the late William and Georgina Gimbel, to be designated for the William T. Gimbel Discovery Fund in Neuroscience. The Keck Foundation, too, provided a $5 million Discovery Fund.

Through the BSI, Caltech has already made several new appointments of young faculty members whose interests are indicative of the interdisciplinary nature of the initiative. For example, David Chan, assistant professor of biology, uses cell biological, biophysical, and genetic approaches to study how membrane-bound systems like organelles and viruses fuse under certain circumstances.

In particular, Chan is interested in understanding the fusion mechanism of mitochondria, organelles important for energy production and cell death. In addition, he studies how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the agent of the disease AIDS, enters human cells by fusing with the cell membrane.

Dianne Newman, the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Geobiology and Environmental Engineering Science, is leading a project to investigate how microorganisms and Earth's near-surface environments have interacted over billions of years. Her project integrates molecular microbiology with geochemistry and field geology to try to identify chemical signatures of early life in the geological record.

"The biological sciences today present an intellectual challenge that is changing the environment at Caltech," said Mel Simon, the former chair of the Caltech Division of Biology, who played a pivotal role in the BSI. "So the resources are here, the vision is here, and some of the people are here. Now all we have to do is great science."

Contact: Robert Tindol (626) 395-3631