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Oct. 22: Carnegie Mellon Receives $25 Million Gift for Life Sciences Initiatives


Ken Walters                  

Carnegie Mellon Receives $25 Million
Gift for Life Sciences Initiatives

Richard King Mellon Foundation Provides Historic Grant

PITTSBURGH — Carnegie Mellon University will receive $25 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the largest private foundation grant in the university's history. The grant will be invested in life sciences initiatives, with a particular focus on research and educating the field's next generation of leaders.   

The award will be used to create a Life Sciences Competitiveness Fund, which will support the hiring of faculty, the construction of new labs, and the establishment of a Presidential Scholars Fund to support the best and brightest graduate students focusing on life sciences fields, such as computational biology, medical robotics and biomedical engineering.

"We are deeply honored and profoundly grateful for this gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. This grant represents a powerful vote of confidence in Carnegie Mellon and a major investment in the future of our region," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "This magnificent grant is the latest in a series of bold and visionary commitments to our university by the foundation and its founders. One of the first was a gift in 1964 from Richard King and Constance Mellon to our nascent Computer Science Department - a program that is now the nucleus of our world leading School of Computer Science."

"The Trustees of the Richard King Mellon Foundation are very proud of the longstanding relationship with Carnegie Mellon University," said Chairman Richard P. Mellon. "This grant will build upon the region's growing body of knowledge in the life sciences arena."

Seward Prosser Mellon, president and CEO of the foundation, indicated that "the building of advanced facilities and attracting and supporting the most talented graduate students in life sciences helps position the region to be competitive nationally."

The grant will help expand Carnegie Mellon's leadership role in a number of interdisciplinary fields in the life sciences. For example:

  • Medical robotics research at Carnegie Mellon has established Pittsburgh as a world leader in computer-assisted surgery. Meanwhile, the university and its partners are creating healthcare technologies that provide greater independence to older adults and people with disabilities. In 2006, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh received a five-year, $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center for research in this field.
  • In the past few years, Carnegie Mellon has assembled one of the strongest computational biology teams in the country. It now offers a joint doctoral program in computational biology with the University of Pittsburgh. The program was made possible by the advent of powerful computing tools and the curiosity of scientists who can now take advantage of vast information databases on subjects such as the human genome and cancer. The university recently received a $5 million gift from Ray and Stephanie Lane to establish a research center and professorship in computational biology.
  • University researchers play key roles in the growth of computational neuroscience to reveal fundamental aspects of the human brain during learning, behavior and disease. Many of their discoveries lead to better understanding of the way the human brain operates and new treatment considerations for diseases.
  • Carnegie Mellon scientists pioneered biosensor chemistry, as demonstrated by their leadership on a recent $13.3 million, multi-institutional grant from the National Institutes of Health. A key player in this initiative, the Molecular Biosensor and Imaging Center has advanced the discovery of molecular probes to explore cell activities in real-time, research that ultimately will help identify disease-causing proteins and possibly lead to new drugs for treatment.
  • Leveraging its strengths as a top 10 engineering school, Carnegie Mellon engineers and scientists also are developing a Center for Implantable Biosensors to conduct research that will eventually enable physicians to monitor patient healing or the ways that cells interact in the face of disease.