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PHARMA - RESEARCH GRANT

Remicade researcher gifts $ 105m to NYU

 

BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT

13th August, 2005:The Czech-immigrant scientist Dr Jan T. Vilcek who developed the blockbuster Remicade has decided to contribute his lifetime’s fortune to his professional home for four decades --the New York University School of Medicine.

Dr Vilcek’s $105 million donation is one of the four or five largest ever given to a school or health care institution in New York City, and among the biggest in the nation, according to organizations.
Dr Vilcek headed a research team which developed a chemical that blocked TNF-alpha. Centocor, a pharmaceutical company now part of Johnson & Johnson. The NYU. scientists turned that discovery into infliximab, which Centocor sells as Remicade.

Remicade is currently used to treat Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Scientists believe that the work also has implications for treating other diseases, like ulcerative colitis.
Dr Vilcek was one of the early researchers on interferon, one of the first immune system proteins discovered by scientists. Since the early 1980's, he has worked with another immune protein, TNF-alpha, which is involved in fighting infections.
Sometimes the immune system goes awry and produces too much TNF-alpha, causing the severe inflammation that inflicts pain and tissue damage in autoimmune diseases.

Launched in 1998, Remicade quickly became a major success. According to IMS Health, sales of Remicade hit close to $2 billion, last year, making it one of the 25 best-selling prescription drugs in the country. The proceedings from the drug made Dr. Vilcek a rich man, as well as earning a large amount of money for the university.

Dr Vilcek's gift will go to NYU in three parts - a lump sum of cash, the rights to some future royalties, and a trust. The school declined to state the value of each part, but estimated the combined worth at $105 million.
Most of the money will go toward the sort of basic research on microbes that Dr. Vilcek has done and upgrading laboratories. A portion of the money will go to the medical school's ear, nose and throat department.
According to the Greater New York Hospital Association, the largest gift to any medical institution in the city was a $130 million bequest to Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, from Donald and Mildred Othmer, in 2000.

Dr. Vilcek's may be the single biggest gift to a medical school in the city, according to both the hospital association and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Sanford and Joan Weill gave $100 million to Cornell University's medical school in 1998, and another $100 million in 2002. The school was renamed in their honor.

The donation by Dr. Vilcek ranks among the 30 largest ever given to a single college or university anywhere in the country, of which only a handful were specifically for medical work, according to a ranking maintained by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT

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