CU announces $3.5 million in gifts from ConocoPhillips to biotech building

Houston-based energy firm ConocoPhillips has made a major gift toward the University of Colorado Boulder's Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building to bring together world-class scientists and engineers working toward solutions in fields such as medicine and energy.

ConocoPhillips intends to follow up a $1 million January cash gift with proposed future gifts of $2.5 million over the next two years, for an anticipated total of $3.5 million toward a wing of the building to house the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. The department will be one of three CU-Boulder units to occupy the 330,000-square-foot building on the East Campus, along with the Division of Biochemistry and the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, or CIMB. Researchers will begin occupying the building in early 2012.

"The Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building creates a Front Range anchor for the biosciences with the help of partners like ConocoPhillips," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. "With interdisciplinary research, the possibilities for energy innovation are limitless, and ConocoPhillips is providing the foundation for this vital work."

The gifts will name the ConocoPhillips Center for Energy Innovation, and bring under one roof select researchers from two CU-Boulder research programs it supports, the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2, and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, or RASEI.

The Caruthers Biotechnology Building aims to dissolve walls and promote collaboration among science and engineering disciplines. Chemical and biological engineering faculty will work with researchers in nearly a dozen academic disciplines and with partners including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and ConocoPhillips. In all, the building will house 60 tenure-line faculty, 500 graduate students and research associates, and undergraduates working on critical challenges in biotechnology.

CU-Boulder chemical and biological engineers will pursue research that may herald:

--More efficient biofuels production, thanks to novel microbial technologies discovered by the lab of Associate Professor Ryan Gill, C2B2 managing director

--Improved transfer of biomass into synthetic fuels, based on pioneering work by Professor Alan Weimer, C2B2 executive director

--Improved capture of carbon at energy plants, based on liquid membrane technology conceived in the lab of Professor Richard Noble

ConocoPhillips currently sponsors more than $2 million in CU-Boulder faculty research contracts for 2011-13. The university is one of nine participants in the ConocoPhillips SPIRIT Scholars program, which provides scholarships, mentorship and enrichment for students interested in energy careers. CU alumni who have held ConocoPhillips leadership positions include Tom Sears ('52), James Gallogly ('74) and Carin Knickel ('79). The firm is a founding member and lead sponsor of C2B2.

With these gifts, nearly $40 million in private support has been raised for the building, whose construction is funded by a variety of private and public sources including a $15 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant.

CU-Boulder's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering ranks among the top 10 public graduate programs in the U.S. Its faculty have been awarded more than $25 million in research grants in the past two years, and have won more American Institute of Chemical Engineering awards this past decade than at any university except the University of Texas.

ConocoPhillips is an integrated energy company with interests around the world. Headquartered in Houston, the company had approximately 29,700 employees, $156 billion in assets and $189 billion in revenues as of Dec. 31, 2010. For more information go to www.conocophillips.com.

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