Green Foundation, Trust gives $12.8 million for UT Southwestern comprehensive research center

02/20/04

DALLAS – Feb. 20, 2004 – A major grant from the Cecil and Ida Green Foundation, representing the final distribution of the foundation's assets by its trustees, has been combined with a specific bequest from the late Mr. Green through his Trust to provide $12.8 million to UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The gift will be used to establish a comprehensive center that will utilize information technology to enable scientists to link basic research on molecules and cells with analysis of the function of entire biological systems.

The Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational and Systems Biology will be overseen by Dr. Alfred Gilman, chairman of pharmacology and one of UT Southwestern's four Nobel laureates.

To continue advances in biomedical research, Dr. Gilman said scientists must have the latest tools in computer science, engineering and imaging technology, and the Green Comprehensive Center will greatly enhance UT Southwestern's capacities in this respect.

Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern, said the gift will provide new avenues for research and collaboration among scientists, enabling researchers to build on the remarkable scientific developments made during the 20th century.

"The generosity of Cecil and Ida Green over many decades has made extraordinary progress possible at UT Southwestern and many other institutions," he said. "This final distribution from the Green Foundation trustees will have a profound impact on UT Southwestern's programs in basic research and systems biology, and on biomedical science worldwide.

"Integrating the power of computational science and modern imaging technologies with basic molecular and cellular research will allow remarkable insights to be gained about how biological systems function in health and diseases. This new area of science will be at the forefront of medical progress in the 21st century, and thanks to Mr. Green and the Green Foundation trustees, UT Southwestern will be one of the leaders in the field."

The gift is part of the final disbursal from the Foundation, which is being liquidated following Mr. Green's death on April 12, 2003. Mr. Green and his wife, Ida, long ago announced their intention to ultimately distribute all of their wealth to philanthropic organizations.

Bryan Smith, president of the Green Foundation, said the board of trustees decided that the major part of the foundation's assets should go toward one program.

"We have always felt there ought to be a donation for one specific program of high impact, to perpetuate Cecil Green's name and to have important significance for many, many years to come," said Mr. Smith, a friend of Mr. Green for more than 50 years. "Our plan is consistent with Mr. Green's desires, with the beneficiary being an institution with which he had a long relationship. This is a big expression of faith in these fields of interest and in the ability of UT Southwestern to carry out these plans in the Green tradition."

Dr. Gilman also directs the Dallas-based Alliance for Cellular Signaling, an international consortium of researchers who pool their efforts to study how cells interact with, or signal, each other. The new Green Center will become home to this initiative.

"This gift is a wonderful example of the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Green," said Dr. Gilman. "It will give us flexibility, freedom and opportunity.

"Individual labs are doing a tremendous job of discovering how a cell receives specific signals and sends information from point A to point B to regulate function," said Dr. Gilman. "But the cell has to listen to perhaps 50 or 60 signals simultaneously to do its job, and we don't yet know the design principles for assembly of such a complex and dynamic network.

"There is an enormous increase in interest in quantitative analysis of complex systems, and much of this is a natural extension of the Human Genome Project. For the first time we have all the pieces of the puzzle," he said. "The challenge is to put all the pieces together, and to do that will require sophisticated information technology as well as basic molecular biology and biochemistry."

Scientists now can use X-ray crystallography and magnetic resonance spectroscopy to solve the three-dimensional structures of important biological molecules – especially proteins, Dr. Gilman noted. The newest computer-assisted imaging technologies also allow precise visualization of cell structures and analysis of cellular metabolism and function.

"A computer model of a cell or organ is a fantastic long-term goal, and it's absolutely going to happen someday. When we have such models, it will be spectacular. We'll be able to get new types of information on therapies, diseases and drug discovery. Drug discovery will become both faster and much less expensive," said Dr. Gilman. "But first, we need a model of the cell's signaling network. We can unite our efforts to make this happen under the umbrella of the new Green Center."

Dr. Gilman said he expects to recruit a core group of researchers who will collaborate with current UT Southwestern scientists to "form a nucleus of people who would work on the development of such models and collaborate with biologists to use their data to build such models."

Dr. Wildenthal said the new Green Comprehensive Center "not only will encourage interactions among UT Southwestern scientists, but also will facilitate collaborations with other institutions."

The Green Foundation's final distribution to UT Southwestern of approximately $11.3 million will be used to endow the new Green Comprehensive Center, which will be the home of three previously endowed chairs – the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Reproductive Biology Sciences, the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Biomedical Science, and the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Chair in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Also incorporated within the comprehensive center will be a program previously established by the Greens, the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences. An additional $1.5 million, including $1,335,000 specifically bequeathed by Mr. Green through his Trust to UT Southwestern and supplemented by a special $165,000 grant from the Green Foundation, will be used to create a Fund for Endowed Scholars in Biomedical Computational Science, providing resources to enable the regular recruitment of rising young research "stars" in biomedical computational science.

The new funds, combined with the earlier gifts, will yield a total endowment to support the comprehensive Green program of more than $25 million.

The names of Mr. Green, one of the founders of Texas Instruments, and Mrs. Green, who died in 1986, are found throughout the UT Southwestern campus, most notably on two buildings: the Cecil H. and Ida Green Science Building, and the Cecil H. and Ida Green Biomedical Research Building.

In addition, Mr. Green and two other TI founders, Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott, donated funds in the 1960s and 1970s to establish the Excellence in Education Foundation, which in 1992 provided a $30 million lead gift to endow molecular research at UT Southwestern. The gift was commemorated by the naming of the North Campus auditorium in honor of the foundation.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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