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04/27/2000 07:00:00

Parsons Foundation Grants Caltech $2 Million

For Immediate Release

The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has awarded the California Institute of Technology a $2 million grant to be used over three years to purchase scientific computer equipment for the Biomolecular Structures Laboratory at Caltech.

"This equipment is absolutely essential to put Caltech in a position to lead the field of protein design, which has great promise for applications to medical research," said Caltech president David Baltimore.

The computational biology hardware will be used by scientists like Stephen Mayo, associate professor of biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute assistant investigator. They will use it to study protein structure, function, and design. "It's phenomenal," said Mayo. "Computational biology is a new and rapidly emerging area and this will be very high end, high performance computer hardware. It will be one of the most significant computing facilities at Caltech."

The equipment will provide a means for studying biotechnology materials that could be used in human therapeutics, industrial biotechnology, and agriculture. It will be housed in the Broad Center for Biological Sciences, a structure that, when completed in 2002, will provide space for 10 new Caltech research groups that will work at the cutting edge of the biological sciences.

Caltech kicked off the Biological Sciences Initiative in 1998, to raise $100 million for new faculty and resources. The Parsons Foundation gift is the first to address one of the key objectives of the Initiative, providing equipment for state-of-the-art instrumentation facilities that scientists in the Broad Center will share with others on campus.

Caltech has a history of discovery in the biological sciences, with six Nobel Prizes in medically related fields. Thomas Hunt Morgan, who founded the Division of Biology at Caltech in 1928, won the Nobel Prize for identifying the gene as a specific entity with a fixed location on a chromosome. His Nobel was followed by prizes for George Beadle, Max Delbrück, Renato Dulbecco, Roger Sperry, and Edward Lewis, who, in 1995, received the Nobel for his decades of work on how genes control development. Baltimore received a Nobel Prize at the age of 37 for his work in virology.

The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation was established in 1961 by the late Ralph M. Parsons, founder of the international engineering and construction firm that bears his name. The foundation, since 1974 a separate, free-standing, charitable organization independent of the corporation, awards grants focusing on the areas of higher education, social-impact programs, health, and civic and cultural endeavors.

Contact: Jill Perry (626) 395-3226

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Written by Jill Perry