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November 9, 2000

Boyers' grant establishes chair in biological sciences

Pitt has received a $1.5 million gift from an alumnus and his wife to establish an endowed chair in the Department of Biological Sciences. The Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology will be used to support an outstanding faculty member in the field of post-genomic molecular biology.

Herbert Boyer, co-founder of Genentech, Inc., is recognized as a pioneer in the field of biotechnology. He studied bacteriology at Pitt, earning a Ph.D. in 1963, and he recently was named to Pitt's Board of Trustees.

In the early 1970s, Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen launched a new scientific field called recombinant DNA technology, or gene splicing. This development revolutionized the field of biology and spawned the modern biotechnology industry.

Genentech was founded in 1976 by Boyer and venture capitalist Robert A. Swanson. The biotechnology company is a leader in using human genetic information to develop, manufacture and market pharmaceuticals. Boyer remains a director of Genentech and is professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco.

Boyer has won the Medal of Technology, the National Medal of Science, and the Albert and Mary Lasker Award for Medical Research. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is in the California Inventors Hall of Fame.

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said, "The 21st century has been termed the age of biology, and this professorship will further strengthen Pitt's research capabilities in the biological sciences."

Nordenberg added that the University was honored to have Herbert Boyer's name associated with its research endeavors in the sciences.

"Herb Boyer is one of the major figures of the 20th century. His achievements as a scientist are extraordinary, and he also has been a pioneer in working to ensure that laboratory advances are developed in ways that promote human health."

The $1.5 million gift is part of Pitt's capital campaign. The University is hoping to raise $500 million by July 2003 to support its academic and research programs and facilities needs.

N. John Cooper, dean of the Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences, noted that post-genomic molecular biology is the field that will address the most important scientific questions about human health and the disease states to which humans are subject.

"The challenge facing the biological sciences, now that the sequence of the human genome has been determined, will be to take the vast amount of raw data that exists and find ways to change it into a scientific understanding of how the human biological system is constructed and controlled," he said.


Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 6

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