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07/12/2012 07:00:00

Caltech Receives Gift from Sackler Foundation to Advance Biomedical Science Research

PASADENA, Calif.—The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and UCLA have launched highly productive collaborations in cancer research and other areas of biomedicine in recent years, frequently through the Caltech lab of Nobel Laureate and President Emeritus David Baltimore. Now, an endowment established by the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation will strengthen the Caltech-UCLA partnership and advance the Baltimore lab's interdisciplinary research into areas where mathematics and engineering converge with biology.

The Sackler endowment will support three primary areas: postdoctoral researchers working in areas that have a convergent theme; students pursuing a joint MD/PhD degree through the Caltech-UCLA Medical Scientist Training Program; and a joint seminar series between Caltech and UCLA emphasizing the interface of medicine, engineering, and the physical sciences.

"Caltech has a strong interdisciplinary focus that is fueling its outstanding achievements in biomedical research," says Caltech's president Jean-Lou Chameau. "The support from the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation further enhances this research, which can lead to therapies for some of the world's most critical diseases."

The research supported by the endowment will encompass many of the numerous disciplines that have become intertwined with biology in recent years, such as computational mathematics and physics. There is also an important educational component, as the Sackler endowment will help train MD/PhD students and strengthen the link between Caltech's basic science expertise and UCLA's translational medicine focus.

"The Sackler gift is very important because it allows us to expand our research in a direction in which I very much want it to go, and at the same time it will support our very significant MD/PhD program," says Baltimore, the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology. "We are grateful to Raymond and Beverly Sackler for their generosity and for their foresight in recognizing the importance of our work."

Dr. Raymond Sackler is a physician, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who has supported numerous scientific and cultural initiatives throughout the world. With his late brothers, Arthur and Mortimer, he sponsored the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and with his wife, Beverly, has sponsored the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, both at Tel Aviv University. David Baltimore and Caltech are one of 10 recipients of endowments from the foundation as part of a recent global program in support of convergent research.

"The purpose of this gift is to catalyze new convergent science investigations and to honor the important research that has been carried out by David Baltimore," says Raymond Sackler. "He made groundbreaking scientific accomplishments at a relatively early age, and now—working at the crossroads of several disciplines—he continues to make major discoveries in biomedical research. We hope that this new endowment will foster his research and Caltech's dynamic collaborations with UCLA."

Baltimore is best known for his work with viruses and the immune system, and he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for his discoveries concerning cancer-inducing viruses. Several years ago, he decided that his research should move toward translational applications, and in 2009 he became the director of a new effort with UCLA—the Joint Center for Translational Medicine—which supports numerous research projects with the potential for clinical applications.

Written by Michael Rogers