Eleanor Roosevelt Institute merges with University of Denver

May 27, 2003

DENVER -- Two of Denver's premier private, nonprofit institutions have joined forces in a move that will boost Colorado's prominence as a center for biomedical research. The Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (ERI), an independent biomedical research center with a 33-person research staff including seven principal investigators, has merged with the University of Denver, the oldest independent university in the Rocky Mountain region. The win-win agreement ensures continued stability for ERI, and opens entirely new research and teaching opportunities for DU.

Founded in 1961 with a gift from the Eleanor Roosevelt Foundation for Cancer Research, ERI has pioneered basic biomedical research in an effort to unlock the mysteries of human health and disease. Funded by contributions from individuals, private foundations and such federal agencies as the National Institutes of Health, ERI's research has earned it an international reputation in Down syndrome research as well as in the fight against cancer, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gerhig's disease), autism, Alzheimer's disease, obesity and Type II diabetes -- conditions and diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The University of Denver has strong research and teaching programs in the biological sciences and biochemistry. DU also has a nationally recognized cognitive neurosciences program that combines the disciplines of psychology and biology, as well as growing capabilities in biomechanical engineering. Biology is the university's most popular undergraduate major.

"The ongoing revolution in genetic research and molecular biology will make the life sciences the focus of intense scientific activity for the next half-century," says DU Provost Robert Coombe. "The Eleanor Roosevelt Institute's biomedical expertise is an excellent fit with the university's biological sciences and biochemistry programs, and will be a great asset for DU's current and future pre-medical students. The positive impacts on our research capabilities and the learning experience for our students will be profound."

Undergraduate and graduate science majors at DU will benefit from contact with ERI's internationally known scientists through classroom teaching and opportunities to work in the institute's laboratories. The merger greatly expands DU's ability to serve its students in the areas of molecular genetics, neurobiology, metabolic disorders and developmental biology. It also strengthens DU's molecular biology major, cognitive neurosciences program, its masters and doctoral programs in life sciences and its honors program for undergraduates.

By adding ERI's biomedical research operation to its own research capabilities, the University of Denver joins other major research universities with strong medical research institutes. One prominent example is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, home to the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Having two major universities with substantial biomedical research programs puts the metro Denver area in a much better position to attract large disease- or condition-specific research centers to Colorado.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Institute will maintain its not-for-profit status, and will continue to raise funds from foundations and the public to further its research at its present location at 1899 Gaylord Street in Denver. The merger provides ERI with more resources, personnel and equipment, and increased levels of collaboration with University of Denver researchers.

"This is a terrific synergistic opportunity," says ERI President and Senior Scientist David Patterson, a world-renowned geneticist. "Not only do we have many strong prospects for collaboration, this merger allows us to significantly enhance our research programs and speed up the pace of discovery. Our scientists are excited about these opportunities and looking forward to teaching DU undergraduate and graduate students."

The institute had struggled financially in recent months, and was in danger of closing. Individual and corporate donors stepped forward to pledge the money towards the pay off of the mortgage on ERI's building. The merger could not proceed until the mortgage was paid.

To facilitate the agreement, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation, long-time supporters of ERI and DU, agreed to guarantee the pledges for this campaign. Each foundation made significant donations in the form of recoverable grants.

"The ERI board has done a wonderful job of securing pledges to pay off their real estate loan," says Boettcher Foundation President Timothy Schultz. "Therefore, the credit really goes to the far-sighted individuals who have already pledged their support to help the institute through a difficult time."

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation President Dorothy Horrell describes the grant as a "safety net."

"In today's economic environment, it's nearly impossible for an independent research organization to survive without affiliating with a larger university -- the costs of doing high-quality research are just too great," she explains. "Denver and the world cannot afford to lose the world-class research capabilities of the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, and we are proud to join ERI's sponsors to ensure its continued contributions to medical science."

University of Denver

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