The University of Colorado announced a $5 million endowment gift from former Myogen CEO and local entrepreneur Bill Freytag and his wife, Janet, in support of the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, or CIMB, at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The endowment will support interdisciplinary research at the interface of the biomedical sciences, chemistry, physics, computer science and engineering, including collaborations between researchers at CU-Boulder and at the UC Denver Anschutz Medical Campus.
CIMB research teams, which pursue breakthroughs at the intersection of engineering, science, and medicine, have recently been studying melanoma cells to gain insights on the mechanism of cancer progression and exploring inhalable vaccines that allow patients greater access to lifesaving medications.
"The Freytag's generosity will help us build on the momentum of our collaborative, cross-campus efforts in biotechnology, one of CU's primary areas of research and a focus for returning Nobel Laureate Tom Cech," said CU President Bruce D. Benson. "Our scientists and researchers continue to make significant progress unlocking the mysteries of the human body and providing practical, leading-edge solutions to age-old problems."
The gift is another indicator of the rapid strengthening of biotechnology research at CU, which this year received a boost when Cech announced he would be returning to CU full time as a Distinguished Professor. Cech has been president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute headquartered in Chevy Chase, Md., since 2000.
"This latest gift, coupled with several other recent gifts, continue to provide significant momentum for our efforts in the field of molecular biotechnology," said CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson. "Support of this kind is tremendously important in helping us to assume a national leadership role in this arena."
A dinner with Cech and CIMB Director Leslie Leinwand motivated Freytag to establish the endowment. "We see the CIMB as a great way to bring together world-class scholars and students from diverse disciplines to carry out discovery and translational research that addresses the most challenging problems in human health," according to Janet and Bill Freytag. "In time, we hope to see a legacy of research excellence and academic eminence at CIMB. It is truly a privilege for us to be involved with a great institution such as the University of Colorado."
"Our goal is to build a world-class interdisciplinary research institute to understand human biology and make an impact on human health," said Cech. "Bill and Janet Freytag share this vision, and their generous gift will make a big impact on the program."
Bill Freytag has enjoyed career success as an entrepreneur and executive leader in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. He is a former chairman and CEO of Myogen, a CU-based startup co-founded in 1996 by Leinwand, a CU faculty member on the Boulder and Denver campuses, and Dr. Michael Bristow, former head of the division of cardiology at the University of Colorado Denver.
Myogen later was acquired by the California-based Gilead Sciences for $2.5 billion. Bill Freytag also has been CEO of British Columbia-based Aspreva Pharmaceuticals. In addition, he has made gifts to and served on the executive advisory council of the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver.
"Since our days together at Myogen, Bill and I have shared a passion for accelerating scientific discovery through the collaboration of researchers and clinicians," said Leinwand. "This gift from Bill and Janet will help make that passion a reality at CU."
Founded in 1967, the CU Foundation is the nonprofit partner of the University of Colorado whose mission is to raise, manage and invest private support for the university's benefit.