The Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 19, 1998
Oct. 19, 1998
VOL. 28, NO. 8


$17 Million For Biomed Engineering

By Phil Sneiderman
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The Whitaker Foundation has announced a $17 million grant to the university to help build and operate a new institute dedicated to cutting-edge research and education in biomedical engineering.

The Whitaker grant, approved by the governing committee of the Rosslyn, Va.-based organization, provides crucial funding for the creation of a Biomedical Engineering Institute at Hopkins. Under this proposal, Hopkins will hire a dozen new faculty members in the Whiting School of Engineering. The university also plans to construct on the Homewood campus a 60,000-square-foot facility, housing new laboratories, classrooms and computer facilities. Murray Sachs, who chairs the Biomedical Engineering Department, will be director of the new institute.

Murray Sachs, director of the new Biomedical Engineering Institute.

The Whitaker grant comes on the heels of a $10 million gift from Hopkins trustee A. James Clark, to be used toward construction of the new building.

"The Whitaker grant and the new institute it supports will allow Hopkins to take a significant step forward in training tomorrow's scientists and engineers," said President William R. Brody. "It will also enable us to expand our research efforts in a field that promises to have a tremendous impact on health care during the 21st century."

Whitaker is a private, nonprofit foundation created in 1975 upon the death of U. A. Whitaker, founder and chief executive officer of AMP Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of electrical connectors and connecting devices. The foundation primarily supports biomedical engineering research and education. Hopkins received one of the foundation's first two Leadership Awards, designed for the creation or significant expansion of a biomedical engineering department at a major research university. The other grant went to the University of California, San Diego.

"These intensely competitive awards are a tribute to the excellence of biomedical engineering programs at both of these outstanding academic institutions," said G. Burtt Holmes, chairman of the Whitaker Foundation Governing Committee. "All the Leadership Award applications underwent a rigorous selection process. These awards confirm that biomedical engineering education programs at Hopkins and UCSD are of the highest quality and will continue to have a major impact on cost-effective health care."

"The Whitaker Foundation in the past 10 years or so has made a tremendous impact on the entire field of biomedical engineering," said Murray Sachs. "Whitaker has been particularly generous to Johns Hopkins, beginning in 1989, when the foundation provided a $5 million development award to our department. This latest grant is essential. It allows us to move ahead with the programs that are planned at our new institute."

The grant will help Hopkins' biomedical engineering program, already one of the most highly regarded in the world, to expand its research in three emerging high-tech areas: creating computer models of human cells and organs for testing of drugs, devices and treatment regimens; improving biomedical imaging systems to allow physicians to gather important information about internal organs without invading the body; and fostering advances in cell and tissue engineering, including new drug delivery systems and engineered tissues and organs.

The Whitaker funds will support the hiring of 10 new faculty members affiliated with the institute, beyond two new faculty positions approved previously by the university.

"It's hard to overemphasize what a terrific opportunity this presents to us," said Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of the School of Engineering. "The Whitaker Foundation grant will allow us to build on what is already an exquisitely strong program and to leverage it by broadening its base. It will bring us a new building, 10 new faculty members and all of the expertise that comes with them."

Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering.

The research base will be broadened, she explained, because five of the new faculty members will be based in departments outside biomedical engineering, even though their research will be closely related to the field. The new faculty may include, for example, a computer scientist doing important work in imaging or a materials scientist who is developing new plastics with medical applications. "This recognizes that a good deal of the research taking place here has biomedical applications, even though it is being done by faculty members outside the Biomedical Engineering Department," Busch-Vishniac said.

The institute's new building will cost more than $34 million to build, furnish and staff through the year 2006, university officials said. The Whitaker grant provides about half of the sum, and the university is raising the remainder. This drive received a major boost earlier this year through Clark's $10 million gift, and the building will be named Clark Hall in his honor. Clark is chairman and CEO of Clark Enterprises Inc., based in Bethesda, Md.

A location for the hall has been tentatively selected just west of Garland Hall.

Construction is expected to begin next August, with completion anticipated in November 2000. The building will house 13 faculty laboratories, four undergraduate teaching labs, classrooms and space for visiting scientists. Currently, most biomedical engineering research is based in the School of Medicine on the East Baltimore campus. The new institute will allow the department to maintain a strong presence at the Homewood campus as well.

Edward D. Miller, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, stated, "The resources supplied by the Whitaker Foundation will allow us to leverage our own strengths that exist both on the Homewood campus in the School of Engineering as well as our strengths in East Baltimore in our Biomedical Engineering Department. Our ability to work across the entire institution without the traditional barriers positioned us well as we move into the 21st Century."

The Whitaker gift brings to $1.058 billion the amount committed so far to the Johns Hopkins Initiative, the $1.2 billion fund-raising campaign of the university and the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. The announcement comes just days after the chairman of the university's board of trustees, Michael R. Bloomberg, took the campaign total over $1 billion by adding $45 million to an earlier commitment of $55 million, completing his record gift to the current campaign at $100 million. The Johns Hopkins Initiative is scheduled to be completed in 2000.

Related Web Sites

Hopkins' Biomedical Engineering Department

Whitaker Foundation