Researcher donates £58m royalties to medical school

August 26, 2005

New York University's School of Medicine has been given $105 million (£58 million) in what is believed to be the largest philanthropic gift ever made by a staff member to a university.

Jan Vilcek, aged 72, has been a microbiology researcher at NYU for more than 40 years. In 1989, he developed an antibody that has been used to create Remicade, an anti-inflammatory drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis and other similar inflammatory diseases.

Dr Vilcek and Junming Le, also at the school, worked together on the discovery and collaborated with a biotechnology company, now owned by Johnson & Johnson, to turn it into a medicine.

The donation comes from royalties Dr Vilcek earned from Remicade sales, as well as future drug rights. As the royalties generated by sales of Remicade continue to rise, the gift could exceed that figure, the university said.

Dr Vilcek said that he was grateful to NYU for fostering his research.

"I feel indebted to the school and want to do as much as I can to help further enhance the basic sciences at this great institution and also to help to secure its role in shaping the future of bio-medical science," Dr Vilcek said.

Robert Glickman, dean of the School of Medicine, said the university was "incredibly grateful" for his "extraordinary gift".

"Dr Vilcek has made tremendous contributions to our research programmes and now he has gone far beyond that dedication by making this generous gift, which is unprecedented in our school's history," Dr Glickman added.

The donation will be used to endow two professorships and some fellowships for graduate students and to support a number of postdoctoral fellows, aid research and support staff recruiting efforts as well as to improve facilities and basic sciences courses.

Dr Vilcek was born in Bratislava, Slovakia, to a Jewish family that managed to avoid being captured by the Nazis during the Holocaust. After the Second World War, he studied to become a doctor in what was then Czechoslovakia before he emigrated to the US in 1965.

Dr Vilcek then began working at NYU as an assistant microbiology professor.

NYU is attempting to raise $2.5 billion in donations. It will name a floor in a new research facility and several new laboratories after Dr Vilcek and his wife, Marica.

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