November 25, 1996
Media Contact: Michael Purdy
Phone: (410) 955-8725
"Advances in these concepts are ultimately the foundations for future advances in medicine."
An anonymous donor will give The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (SOM) $15 million to support research in the basic sciences. The gift from an alumnus is the single largest in the history of the SOM and comes on top of an additional $11 million in basic science funds in what is emerging as a major fund-raising initiative by Hopkins' basic science departments.
"If we are to recruit and fund faculty with promising new approaches to research problems, these funds are critical," says Edward D. Miller, Jr., M.D., interim dean of the Medical School. "They're also essential to keeping buildings, laboratories and other basic science facilities up-to-date."
A portion of the anonymous gift, $5 million, is designated as a challenge to other donors to provide badly needed renovation of the School's basic research facilities. Through competitive awards from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, the basic science directors already have raised $2.1 million toward these matching funds.
The remaining $10 million of the anonymous donor's gift will be used to create a permanent endowment for faculty development.
"This exceptional challenge gift reflects a deep appreciation of and support for the way in which fundamental new knowledge originates," says William Agnew, Ph.D., director of physiology at Hopkins.
Nearly $5.9 million in federal, donor and SOM funds will be committed after the first of the year in the first phase of physical renovations.
Another alumnus, Thomas Maren, M.D., a 1951 graduate who has helped develop two drugs that treat glaucoma, recently gave $2 million to establish an endowed professorship in pharmacology. The new chair will be named for Maren and his mentor at Hopkins, E. K. Marshall.
Earlier in the year, the School received a $2 million grant from the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust to create the Markey Endowment for support of promising biomedical research. Income from the endowment, to be awarded to Markey Fellows, will support distinguished young basic science faculty.
The basic science departments also have earned $3.4 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for laboratory renovations, faculty development and new high- technology core labs--facilities that provide a specialized service in support of many research teams. Other fund-raising efforts by faculty have generated approximately $1.3 million for the initiative in shared core equipment grants from NIH and NSF.
"What distinguishes this initiative is that eight separate departments have come together across departmental boundaries to seek essential resources," Agnew says.
The funds being raised will be administered jointly by the participating departments: biological chemistry, biomedical engineering, biophysics and biophysical chemistry, cell biology and anatomy, molecular biology and genetics, neuroscience, pharmacology and molecular sciences, and physiology.
When the School opened in 1893, Hopkins was among the first in the United States to integrate basic and clinical research and training, with labs exclusively dedicated to the basic sciences of physiology, chemistry and pharmacology, and full-time faculty paid to teach and conduct research. The SOM traditionally has relied principally on federal research grants and clinical revenues to support basic research, including the salaries of young investigators.
"Basic scientists pursue fundamental concepts in the biological and physical sciences," explains Agnew. "This includes, for example, aggressively exploring how 80,000 genes encode the developmental plan for the body and the organs; or how the electrical signaling mechanisms of the nervous system produce sensory perception, memory and consciousness; or how the immune system forms billions of different protective antibodies. Advances in these concepts are ultimately the foundations for future advances in medicine.
Because basic science studies are not directed toward immediate application, they tend to be the first projects to fall under renewed scrutiny when funding is cut.
"Tightened federal budgets often are targeted to genuinely promising strategies for defeating major diseases; however, this can put at risk pioneering efforts to discover new core knowledge, despite the fact that new disease treatment strategies often derive from earlier basic research," says Agnew.
To aid in the basic sciences effort, Hopkins has appointed a basic science development director, one of the few in the country with this responsibility. Candler Gibson has been recruited from Yale to fill this position.
The Johns Hopkins University's ongoing $900 million campaign, the Johns Hopkins Initiative, has reached $634.4 million in total commitments, 70 percent of the campaign's overall goal. Together, the School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System are seeking 58 percent of the total, or $455 million, and have raised $296 million thus far, including the new basic science gifts. The Initiative, launched publicly in 1994, is scheduled to end in 2000.