University of Pittsburgh
October 25, 2000


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 26 -- The University of Pittsburgh has received a $1.5 million gift from Herbert W. and Grace Boyer to establish an endowed chair in the Department of Biological Sciences. The Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology will be used to support an outstanding faculty member in the field of post-genomic molecular biology.

Herbert W. Boyer, co-founder of Genentech, Inc., is recognized as a pioneer in the field of biotechnology. He studied bacteriology at Pitt, earning a Ph.D. in 1963, and he was recently named to the Pitt Board of Trustees.

In the early 1970s, Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen launched a new scientific field called recombinant DNA technology, or gene splicing. This development revolutionized the field of biology and spawned the modern biotechnology industry. Genentech was founded in 1976, by Boyer and venture capitalist Robert A. Swanson. Headquartered in San Francisco, the biotechnology company is a leader in using human genetic information to develop, manufacture, and market pharmaceuticals. Boyer remains a director of Genentech and is professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco.

Boyer has won the Medal of Technology, the National Medal of Science, and the Albert and Mary Lasker Award for Medical Research. Among his many honors and activities, Boyer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and is in the California Inventors Hall of Fame.

"This generous endowment gift from Herb and Grace Boyer will position the University of Pittsburgh to build on existing strengths and take full advantage of the exciting scientific opportunities that lie ahead," said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "The 21st century has been termed the age of biology, and this professorship will further strengthen Pitt's research capabilities in the biological sciences, and help us develop even more productive synergies between the Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine."

Nordenberg added that the University was honored to have Herbert Boyer's name prominently associated with its research endeavors in the sciences.

"Herb Boyer is one of the major figures of the 20th century. His achievements as a scientist are extraordinary, and he also has been a pioneer in working to ensure that laboratory advances are developed in ways that promote human health. We are proud to claim him as one of our most distinguished alumni, and are grateful that he has chosen to make this well targeted investment in the biological sciences here at Pitt," Nordenberg said.

N. John Cooper, dean of the Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences, noted that post-genomic molecular biology is the field that will address the most important scientific questions about what makes us the people we are, the normal states we exist in, and the disease states that we are subject to.

"The challenge facing the biological sciences, now that the sequence of the human genome has been determined, will be to take the vast amount of raw data that exists and find ways to change it into a scientific understanding of how the human biological system is constructed and controlled," he said.