The Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 7, 2002
January 7, 2002
VOL. 31, NO. 16


Keck Foundation Gives $1.8 Million for Biomedical Research and Training

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded $1.8 million to Johns Hopkins to create at the School of Medicine the W.M. Keck Center for the Rational Design of Biologically Active Molecules. The funding will support the design and application of synthetic molecules for biomedical research and training.

The Keck Foundation has shown enormous vision and insight in advancing the frontiers of medical discovery. This gift will not only greatly impact our work at Johns Hopkins, it will have a positive effect on biomedical research around the world, said Philip A. Cole, the E.K. Marshall and Thomas H. Maren Professor and director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, who will lead the new center. Jeremy M. Berg, professor and director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, will serve as co-director.

Technological advances in biomedical research--coupled with recent advances in genetics, genomics, cell biology and biochemistry--have led to great optimism within the scientific community and the general public that incurable diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions and neurodegenerative diseases will one day be defeated.

Most dramatic shifts in medicine have come from research that, at first, had no apparent application. This has been particularly true in solving biomedical problems, Cole said. Traditionally, molecules have been discovered by looking at known properties of naturally occurring products, by large-scale screening of collections of natural products or synthetic compounds, or by serendipity. Now, with the explosive growth in our understanding of complex biological systems, and fueled by powerful methods in molecular, cellular and structural biology, we can design specific molecules that can be examined further for their impact on biological function. This process is much faster and more efficient, and will help us tremendously in unraveling important biomedical problems.

The Keck Center will provide the physical and intellectual framework to foster interdisciplinary inquiry. Funding from the foundation will be used to recruit new faculty and launch a postdoctoral training program.

We are truly honored by this gift, Berg said. It reflects the Keck Foundations great confidence in Hopkins to build on our strengths in the basic sciences for the benefit of future research and training.

Edward D. Miller, the Frances Watt Baker, M.D., and Lenox D. Baker, M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said, It is collaboration between investigators like Dr. Cole and Dr. Berg that has been a hallmark of Johns Hopkins and a source of its success. Cole--with a background in medicine and bio-organic chemistry--is at the forefront of using chemistry to address biological problems. Berg is a synthetic inorganic chemist who has become a world leader in structure-based methods for addressing biological problems.

Established in 1954 by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Co., the W.M. Keck Foundation is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the country. It supports scientific, engineering and medical research programs and projects at accredited universities and colleges throughout the United States. Its medical research grant program focuses on basic biomedical research in the areas of neuroscience, immunology, molecular genetics and structural biology.

Since 1985, the Keck Foundation has awarded Johns Hopkins more than $4.68 million.