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03/25/1999 08:00:00

Caltech Receives $1.4 Million for L. K. Whittier Gene Expression Center

PASADENA-The California Institute of Technology has received a $1,444,000 grant from the L. K. Whittier Foundation. The award is for support of the L. K. Whittier Gene Expression Center.

Led by Professor of Biology Barbara Wold, the L. K. Whittier Gene Expression Center will utilize unique resources already available at Caltech to initiate a large-scale human gene expression analysis. This breakthrough will be made in the growing field of "functional genomics," a field whose entire purpose is to make new medical and biological discoveries based on the DNA sequence of the human genome.

Mel Simon, chair of the Caltech Division of Biology and the Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, has produced probes for all 40,000 known human genes. By combining this information with what scientists have already learned from the Human Genome Project, the center is expected to produce wide-ranging discoveries in both the medical and biological sciences.

"We hope to make the center a useful tool for all of the biologists on campus, and ultimately for scientists around the world, through our accumulated database of gene expression information," says Stephen Quake, assistant professor of applied physics and another collaborating scientist at the L. K. Whittier Gene Expression Center. "The interesting thing about the gene arrays is that they provide more data than any one person can analyze, and the aggregate sum of the data provides a powerful resource to answer a number of questions about gene function."

The L. K. Whittier Foundation, located in South Pasadena, was incorporated in 1955 by the late Leland Whittier and other members of the Whittier family. The Whittiers are descendants of Mericos H. Whittier, who was one of the first independent oil producers in California.

Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and an academic staff of about 280 professorial faculty and 130 research faculty. The Institute has more than 19,000 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of more than 1,700 on campus and 5,300 at JPL.

Over the years, 27 Nobel Prizes and four Crafoord Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni. Forty-four Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science; and eight alumni (two of whom are also trustees), two additional trustees, and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award. On the Caltech faculty there are 75 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the faculty and Board of Trustees, 68 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 49 members of the National Academy of Engineering.