Public Release: 

Rockefeller University Creates Center For Immune Disease Research

Rockefeller University

The Rockefeller University will launch the Christopher H. Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases with a $5 million gift from university Trustee Christopher H. Browne, managing director of the investment firm Tweedy Browne Company, LLC. The center will provide immunologists at the university with access to the next generation of sophisticated laboratory technologies, speeding the progress of research on a broad spectrum of diseases that involve the immune system, including cancer, AIDS and other infectious diseases, and such autoimmune disorders as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and lupus.

"The Christopher H. Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases will allow us to create an integrated program that capitalizes on the talents of a diverse group of investigators, using the newest scientific methods to study the immune system's complexities in ever-increasing detail," says Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D., president of the university. "We are enormously grateful to Chris Browne for helping us to launch an initiative that will have a major impact on this vital area of biomedicine."

The new center will be directed by Ralph M. Steinman, M.D., Henry G. Kunkel Professor and head of the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology. Other members of the center include Michel C. Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D., professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and an associate investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); Jeffrey V. Ravetch, M.D., Ph.D., Theresa and Eugene M. Lang Professor and head of the Leonard Wagner Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Immunology; Yongwon Choi, associate professor, head of the Laboratory of Immunology, and an assistant investigator with HHMI; and David D. Ho, M.D., professor at Rockefeller and scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center for the City of New York. The Diamond Center affiliated with the university in 1996.

Plans for the Christopher H. Browne Center include creation of new laboratories at Rockefeller focusing on key areas of immunology research. Scientists working in the center will also have access to essential core resources, including a facility to study genetically altered mouse models that can advance understanding of gene function and disease states. Other shared resources will house state-of-the-art instruments for cell and tissue analysis.

A principal goal of the center is to promote new clinical research on an expanded range of immune-related conditions, particularly autoimmune diseases and cancer, with the ultimate goal of developing more effective therapies. The Rockefeller University Hospital, the largest clinical research center supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, will play a major role in this endeavor. Currently, more than 25 clinical protocols focusing on immunology are under way at the hospital, including studies of the drug thalidomide, which has proven effective in alleviating the wasting associated with AIDS and tuberculosis.

The Christopher H. Browne Center is an essential component of the university's current effort to recruit new faculty, improve facilities and create innovative scientific programs. Five other centers have been established at the university since 1992. They are: the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Center for Research on Alzheimer's Disease, the F.M. Kirby Center for Sensory Neuroscience, the Starr Center for Human Genetics, the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology and the Center for Biochemistry and Structural Biology.

To support these activities, the university launched a fund-raising campaign in fiscal year 1995 with a goal of raising $82 million by June 1997. The campaign raised $86.6 million, exceeding its goal and bringing to $160 million the total of new gifts and pledges made to the university during the first five and a half years of Wiesel's presidency. With Browne's contribution, the university has surpassed its fiscal year 1998 private fund-raising goal of $22 million, six months ahead of schedule.

Browne, who joined Rockefeller's board of trustees in June 1997, began his association with the University in 1995 as a member of The Rockefeller University Council. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he now a trustee and member of the executive committee of the investment board.

"The outstanding immunologists on the Rockefeller faculty have the experience, drive and vision to make seminal contributions in many vital areas of disease prevention and treatment," says Browne. "I look forward to following the progress of their work as the new center grows and develops."

Rockefeller began in 1901 as The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the first U.S. biomedical research center. Rockefeller faculty members have made significant achievements, including the discovery that DNA is the carrier of genetic information and the launching of the scientific field of modern cell biology. The university has ties to 19 Nobel laureates, including the president, Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D., who received the prize in 1981.

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