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With dedication of its Sarofim Research Building, UT-Houston looks to new frontiers in science

– Written by Wendy Mohon

HOUSTON—(Oct. 23, 2006)—At a Nov. 1 donor recognition reception, the state-of-the art Fayez S. Sarofim Research Building will be formally dedicated as the new home of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM), which is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman James R. Huffines will officially accept and dedicate the new building.

The IMM is a research institute that seeks to investigate the causes of human diseases at the cellular and molecular levels using DNA and protein technologies to reveal disease mechanisms. It was established in the mid 1990s.

Design and construction of the eye-catching, 223,000-square-foot building at 1825 Pressler Street was funded by the $200-million New Frontiers Campaign, which concluded in January. The campaign set fundraising records and was seven times larger than any previous capital campaign in UT-Houston’s history.

The largest gifts were $25 million from building namesake Fayez S. Sarofim, founder and owner of the investment firm Fayez Sarofim & Co., and $20 million from The Brown Foundation, Inc., for which the IMM is named.

The effort garnered five of the largest single gifts ever received by UT-Houston and attracted 36 gifts or pledges of $1 million or more. The New Frontiers Campaign also raised more than the combined total of the university’s previous three campaigns.

During the evening dedication ceremony, a donor recognition wall will be unveiled for permanent display at the main entrance of the building. The wall, measuring nearly 12 feet tall by 31 feet long, honors both New Frontiers donors who contributed $1,000 or more, as well as founding donors to the creation of the IMM.

The New Frontiers Campaign, chaired by Development Board member Beth Robertson and co-chaired by the late Ben Love, raised funds to both build and equip the IMM’s new $120-million home and to recruit some of the world’s finest scientists.

A cornerstone of the fundraising effort for the IMM was the creation of 27 endowments designed to support the institution in perpetuity and serve as recruiting incentives.

"Endowments were the real essence of the New Frontiers Campaign,” says Robertson. “While the majority of the campaign funds built extraordinary research space housed in a handsome building, the campaign was more about the ‘bright minds’ that fill the building, than bricks and mortar.”

C. Thomas Caskey, M.D., chief operating officer, director- and chief executive officer-elect of the IMM, says endowments are vital to recruitment efforts at the IMM.

“The recruitment of leaders is critical for program expansion to mentor bright, rising young faculty at a time of international competition for talent,” Caskey says. “For example, an endowed chair indicates the IMM’s commitment to the field and thus facilitates recruitment of the best.”

Faculty, staff and researchers have been working in the new building since May, and new recruits continue to populate the IMM’s six main research centers, which are focused on cardiovascular diseases, cell signaling, human genetics, immunology and autoimmune diseases, protein chemistry, and vascular biology.

“We are actively recruiting some of the world’s best scientists in neuroscience, stem cell research, inflammation, metabolism, obesity, diabetes, genetic and proteomic discovery,” says UT Health Science Center President James T. Willerson, M.D. “We expect to have some 125 scientists working in the new building in the years to come, working collaboratively with basic and clinical scientists at all of our schools and working with scientists at academic institutions and hospitals throughout the Texas Medical Center, including Rice University and the University of Houston.”

The award-winning building design – by the Missouri-based firm Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Architects (BNIM) and Pennsylvania-based Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates – features energy-efficient innovations and a two-wing structure that should contribute to a lower energy cost for climate control. Vaughn Construction is the contractor.

In conjunction with the dedication, the IMM will host a Nov. 2 seminar that includes the Seventh Hans J. Müller-Eberhard Memorial Lecture, to be presented by Harvey R. Colten, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center. Morning and afternoon scientific sessions will be chaired by Irma Gigli, M.D., IMM deputy director and director of the Center for Immunology and Autoimmune Diseases, and by Ferid Murad, M.D., Ph.D., IMM director and chief executive officer and director of the Center for Cell Signaling. The keynote speaker will be lan R. Shaw, Ph.D., president & chief executive officer of VaxInnate Corporation.