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$7.8 million given to Carver College of Medicine

BY BEN MARKS | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Carver College of Medicine will hopefully use $7.8 million donation to look for a new professorship, in addition to furthering genetic research.

After receiving $7.8 million, the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine will advance genomic medicine as well as hopefully establishing several new positions in the college.

The money was from the estate of Franklin D. Trueblood, who earned a law degree in at the UI in 1925 and, along with friend and fellow alum Elsie Foerstner, was a staunch supporter of the university over the years.

When he died in 1989, his will named Foerstner as a lifetime income beneficiary of his trust. After Foerstner’s death in April, the university was named as remainder beneficiary.

A decision on exactly where the money is to be spent in the Genetics Department has not yet been made. However, medical-school Dean Debra Schwinn said the money could be used for a variety of purposes.

“We want to make sure we’re putting it to the absolute best use, and that’s why we’re not making a quick decision,” she said. “There’s just so much that we can do, this is a huge jump-start, and we have so many projects where we can use this wisely.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said it is not one lab that will benefit from the donation but a field of study, as the $7.8 million was given to the university with the intention of promoting the field of genomic medicine at the medical school.

Genomic medicine is about tailoring treatment to a specific individual’s genome, Schwinn said.

“Genomic medicine ranges anywhere from trying to understand the genetics that underscores health and disease, to figuring out, of the many genetic variants, which ones are really important in health,” she said. “Then using those to diagnose the patient.”

Schwinn said with some of the donation, a professorship and endowed chair position could be created.

The costs of professorship range anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million, and the costs of an endowed chair are around $2 million.

“This money was given out so that it could be put into endowments that would help faculty recruit and also help support some of our outstanding investigations here,” Schwinn said. “And some of those things are an endowed professorship, an endowed chair, but also start-ups for new programs that will support the older ones.”

She said the college leadership will meet over the next few months to decide how the donation will be used. However, because of the large amount of the money, and with the college in the midst of recruiting a new head of medicine, the decision will take time.

“Genetics is a crucial area of medicine and increasingly important in determining the correct therapy for an individual patient,” Schwinn said.

One of the key directions she said the future of genetic medicine will take will not only be finding what the defects are but fixing them so a therapy can be done that helps out patients.

“If you know that, you have a predilection for a disease,” she said. “Then you can do things ahead of time to try to prevent that.”

Brad Amendt, a professor of anatomy and cell biology, as well as the director of Craniofacial Anomalies Research — a genetic lab — said he believes the money will be put to good use regardless of where it goes.

“Funding for genetics research will help exponentially, it can cure diseases and help a lot of individuals,” he said. “There’s a lot of good research going on here in genetics research, across the university, in all departments and all colleges. I think this is money well-spent.”


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