The Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis has announced a $30 million gift from alumnus and entrepreneur Donald E. Brown, M.D., to establish a new center for immunotherapy research.
The gift, the largest ever from an alumnus of the medical school, will establish the Brown Center for Immunotherapy and support research on immune-based therapies to treat cancers and other diseases. Researchers associated with the Brown Center also will study how to make the highly specialized therapy accessible to large numbers of patients. Initially, the center will focus on multiple myeloma and triple negative breast cancer, two diseases for which the medical school and its clinical partner, Indiana University Health, have sizable patient populations and have already attracted substantial resources that can be leveraged to maximize impact. Researchers also will investigate potential opportunities to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders with immunotherapies.
Of the $30 million donated by Brown, $13 million will be used to establish five endowed faculty chairs, including the Don Brown Chair in Immunotherapy, which will be held by the center's director. The other chairs will be named for four of Brown's eight children: the Paige Brown Chair in Experimental Therapeutics, the Nicole Brown Chair in Immunology, the Christopher Brown Chair in Immunology, and the David Brown Chair in Genomic Medicine.
Per Brown's stipulation, the gift also is expected to catalyze the formation of new Indiana-based companies and the creation of new jobs in the field of immune-based biotechnology. To accomplish those goals, the center will collaborate with the private sector in central Indiana, including leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other relevant industries.
Donald Brown earned his bachelor of science in physics from Indiana University Bloomington in 1978 and later enrolled in a combined M.D./Ph.D. program with the intent of becoming a laboratory researcher before switching his focus to computer science. He earned a master of science in 1982 and graduated from medical school in 1985. While still in medical school at IU, Brown and a friend launched Dealership Programming, Inc., which produced software that enabled car dealerships to easily calculate monthly payments for consumers financing their vehicles. In 1988, he co-founded Software Artistry, Inc., a developer of customer support software, and in 1994 he left that company to start Interactive Intelligence, which grew into a national leader in call center and communication technologies. Recently, that company was acquired by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories for $1.4 billion in the second largest tech deal in the state's history.
"Immunotherapy represents one of the most promising advances in my career, if not in the entire history of medicine," said Dr. Jay Hess, vice president for university clinical affairs and Walter J. Daly Professor. "The impact of this gift on patients will be extraordinary. The center will focus on developing innovative therapies to cure at least one type of cancer and slow the progression of at least one other chronic disease. We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Brown for partnering with the IU School of Medicine to make this vision a reality."