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The Wistar Institute on Feb. 21, 2020. Credit: Serena Jankovic

The Wistar Institute, a health research organization with ties to Penn, announced the Bold Science // Global Impact Capital Campaign, a five-year plan that aims to raise $75 million for advancements in biomedical research, technology, and education of the next generation of innovators.

The Wistar Institute is the nation's first biomedical research organization and is renowned in cancer research, immunology, and infectious diseases. The institute, located at 36th and Spruce Streets, has strong ties to Penn but no formal affiliation. The capital campaign supports a plan to accelerate a response to global health crises through four focused centers, according to a press release. It has raised more than 60 percent of its $75 million goal, including a $20 million anonymous donation — the Institute’s largest to date. The campaign will fund various advancements, including the expansion of two of its existing centers and the creation of two new ones. 

“The capital campaign is designed to raise funds to support the goals of the plan, it’s not about building or creating a new wing somewhere, it’s really about the sciences and how to support the three main milestones of the strategic plan,” Dario Altieri, ​​Wistar president and CEO, Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center director, and Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor, told The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The campaign is rooted in three “strategic and urgent imperatives'' that will guide the quest for the visionary investors. The plan will drive breakthroughs in biomedical science and technology, create powerful partnerships both locally and globally, and educate and train the next generation of scientists. 

“We will use the centers to bring people together, strengthen collaboration, generate new ideas, and identify new areas that we would like to develop,” said Altieri. 

The capital campaign will benefit the expansion of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center and the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center, as well as the creation of the Center for Advanced Therapeutics and the Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Education and Training Center. 

The Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center will help transform the treatment of cancer by advancing to next-generation therapeutics. The Cancer Center was recently renamed in March in honor of donors Ellen and Ronald Caplan, who gifted the Institute $10 million to expand the Cancer Center. The Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center will continue to advance drug development and strengthen preparedness to support a pandemic. 

The Wistar Institute plans to fund two new centers through the Capital Campaign. The Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Education and Training Center will be the home for the Institute’s academic partnerships, which include the University of Pennsylvania and the Community College of Philadelphia. There will be 18 new laboratories added to support new talent that will be joining, bringing the total number to approximately 45 research laboratories by the end of the campaign.

The Center for Advanced Therapeutics will integrate computational biology, artificial intelligence, and structural biology with next generation sequencing technologies and groundbreaking immunotherapy research. This interdisciplinary approach has the potential to transform the treatment of dangerous diseases by harnessing the immune system.

According to Altieri, the capital campaign has a local focus as it aims to contribute to life science research in Philadelphia. Globally, Wistar hopes to continue to be a player in innovation by the end of the five-year campaign. 

“If there is one lesson that we learned from the pandemic is that we need more science, not less science. I hope there is a greater appreciation in the general public of what science can really do; that is, bring solutions to huge problems. We hope that there is now a renewed commitment and renewed emphasis on research and supporting the mission of an organization like ours as an engine that can not only save lives, but better mankind,” said Altieri.