Thanks to $4.5 million in donations from philanthropic supporters, The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) has formed three new endowed chairs – the highest recognition an organization can bestow on a faculty member or a staff member – allowing for permanent funding for research and a way to recruit and retain researchers, the organization recently announced. 

One of those endowed chairs – titled The Robert Alvine Family Endowed Chair – will go toward funding a scientific leadership position at JAX’s Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington.

Alvine, chair emeritus of the JAX Board of Trustees and a Connecticut resident, committed $1.5 million, which will be matched by JAX, to establish this endowed chair in honor of Dr. Edison Liu, former JAX President and CEO, and Auro Nair, Ph.D., executive vice president of The Jackson Laboratory and president, JAX® Mice, Clinical and Research Services.

Farmington is the home of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, where researchers focus on human genomics. Located next to the UConn Health campus, JAX Genomic Medicine opened in 2014. It facilitates clinical collaboration with the state’s universities and hospitals, according to JAX.

“I have great admiration for all that Ed, Auro, and the entire team at JAX have accomplished, and I am proud to have been among the first donors to provide philanthropic support for Ed Liu’s cancer research at JAX as well as for the chair named in his honor,” Alvine said in a prepared release. “As a Connecticut resident, I am especially proud of the impact JAX is having here in the state, so I am delighted that the Alvine Family Chair will be held by the scientific leader of JAX Genomic Medicine in Farmington.”

With another $1.5 million commitment, also to be matched by JAX, David E. Shaw, chair emeritus of the JAX Board of Trustees, has helped establish the David E. Shaw Family Endowed Chair for Innovation, which will support a person in a leadership position who will provide guidance to faculty to bring their discoveries to the public through products and services, according to JAX officials.

“This chair will provide enduring support and inspiration for entrepreneurship at JAX, and we hope it will contribute significantly to future success in translating JAX’s amazing work into products and services that benefit the world,” Shaw said.

JAX, a Maine-based independent biomedical research institution, also recently announced the appointment of its first chairholder who will lead JAX’s Edison T. Liu Endowed Chair in Cancer Research in Bar Harbor, Maine. 

Jackson Laboratory Professor Karolina Palucka, M.D., Ph.D.
Jackson Laboratory Professor Karolina Palucka, M.D., Ph.D. Credit: Contributed photo / The Jackson Laboratory / All Rights Reserved

Dr. Karolina Palucka, M.D., Ph.D., who was recently named the director of the JAX Cancer Center, specializes in human immunology with a focus on experimental immunotherapy, including vaccines that target cancer, JAX officials said. Palucka replaced Liu as the center’s director as Liu decided to return to research in the genomics of cancer.

JAX officials said that more than 35 donors contributed over $1.5 million, which has been matched with an additional $1.5 million from JAX, to establish this endowed chair.

Liu said Palucka’s background in research, as well as her leadership abilities, made her a good choice as the first chairholder of this endowed chair.

“I was already deeply honored and humbled to have this chair in my name. And when Dr. Palucka accepted the appointment to be the first chairholder, I was overjoyed,” Liu said through a prepared release.

Palucka said in a video posted to JAX’s website that donations from philanthropic supporters make innovative research possible. One such supporter, whose wife died from triple-negative breast cancer, made it possible for JAX to raise funds to develop and conduct a clinical trial that tested experimental immunotherapy.

Palucka said federal funding can be difficult to obtain for new initiatives, which is why philanthropic support is critical to developing therapies.

“They need to take the risk because we don’t always know what will work and that is what research is about,” Palucka said. “To take new avenues and break new ground.”JAX officials say 2020 was a record-breaking year for fundraising with more than $21 million raised – going toward vision research, the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative, COVID-19 research, and STEM education.

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