Monday, June 2, 2014

Generous $25 Million Gift to Salk Institute is Boon For Cancer Research

Philanthropist Conrad T. Prebys  -  SDSU Newscenter
Conrad T. Prebys is at it again. The profoundly generous philanthropist, who over the years has supported countless San Diego organizations, has written a check to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies for $25 million to help find cures for a wide range of diseases. The gift, the single largest ever made to the Salk Institute's endowment, will help researchers at the renowned research facility in La Jolla discover new therapies for cancer and much more.

It will also allow Salk scientists, who are already doing groundbreaking cancer research, to take advantage of new technologies and scientific approaches that are rewriting the rules of biomedical research. And the funds will enable Salk, which of course was founded in 1960 by legendary polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, to recruit more top scientists worldwide.

"The scientists at Salk are diving deep into understanding how our bodies operate at the molecular level and what happens when we get sick," Prebys said in a statement. "It is vital work that must be done before we can really conquer disease. We need this foundational science to lay the underpinnings for new therapies and cures. I'm honored to play a role in supporting this important research."

This level of generosity isn't new to Prebys, who just a few months ago gave $20 million to San Diego State University, my alma mater, to create several endowed scholarships that support at least 150 students annually. In recognition of his gift, the largest one ever made to SDSU, the university’s new student union has appropriately been named the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. 

The SDSU communications office wrote back in February that thanks to Prebys, "SDSU will offer additional scholarships to student veterans and to students in bio-medical research, the creative and performing arts, the Guardian Scholars program, entrepreneurship, leadership and the SDSU Honors program."

Prebys' positive impact on the San Diego community is virtually impossible to measure. He's also supported such San Diego-area organizations as the San Diego Zoo, Boys and Girls Club, Old Globe Theater, La Jolla Music Society, Scripps Mercy Hospital, Scripps Prebys Cardiovascular Center, and Sanford/Burnham Medical Research Institute. 

In honor of Prebys' dedication to Salk, the institute's auditorium, which regularly hosts talks by acclaimed scientists from around the world, will be named the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium.

Prebys, a native of South Bend, Ind, was raised in a blue-collar neighborhood and encouraged by an inspirational teacher. The first of five brothers to graduate from college, he went on to found Progress Construction Company, a developer of real estate enterprises in California and Texas.

When he was a child, Prebys' brother contracted polio and the family witnessed the power of scientific research to cure disease when Salk developed the first polio vaccine.

Prebys previously gave $2 million to Salk to establish the Conrad T. Prebys Endowed Chair in Vision Research for Tom Albright, one of the Institute's neuroscientists.

"Mr. Prebys is renowned for his remarkable generosity and his vision in boosting San Diego by supporting its pillar institutions," said Salk President Dr. William Brody. "His gift to Salk's unrestricted endowment provides the financial flexibility for Salk to adapt and thrive as technology, science and human needs evolve, leaving a lasting legacy."

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